UrbanPlan Embarks on Curriculum Update

UrbanPlan Embarks on Curriculum Update

UrbanPlan harnesses the power of project-based learning to help participants understand the complex nature of land use decisions and the role each of us plays in creating better communities. Across the three programs, high school students, university students, and community members engage with all aspects of land use decisions, including design, economic, and social considerations.

Here’s how it works:

  • Teams form “development firms” and are tasked with responding to a request for proposals for the development of a disinvested neighborhood in a fictional city. Each member of the team is assigned a role.
  • The team collaborates on the proposal, working through challenging financial, social, political, and design issues; developing a pro forma; and building real models to bring redevelopment vision to life.
  • Participants are visited twice by industry professionals who serve as facilitators to guide students in the critical assessment of their vision, site plans, and financials.
  • Teams use their final site plan and pro forma to pitch to a “City Council” of volunteer industry professionals, and one team wins the contract!

Updating the Curriculum (in the Americas)

This year, the UrbanPlan team has embarked on a curriculum update to the 20-year-old program. In this update, the team hopes to embed best practices related to key issues facing our communities, such as affordable housing, mixed-use development, and sustainability and resilience planning. The work was guided by a working group with input from technical advisers and has resulted in an updated curriculum that is being piloted in key cities across North America. Because UrbanPlan is a global program, the update to the original curriculum has benefited from the two newer curricula: a medium-density version used in the United Kingdom and a high-density version created in Hong Kong. Of note has been learning from how these other versions have approached sustainability: giving the students a decision about the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) certification level in the United Kingdom and addressing the placement of solar panels in Hong Kong. In the North American curriculum, the students will earn an EcoDistrict score for their proposal based on their decisions related to climate protection, resilience, and equity.

UrbanPlan and DEI

UrbanPlan is a critical tool for ULI to reach diverse students and community members. Students who participate in UrbanPlan, for example, not only become engaged and informed citizens, but they are also introduced to careers in our industry and learn important 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking. In FY21, the UrbanPlan staff completed an equity and inclusion report for the program with a noted diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant. The report focuses on how to address and increase equity in the curriculum, in the knowledge of our volunteers, and in the audiences we serve. The report directs staff and member leadership engaged with UrbanPlan to expand the diversity of volunteers, engage diverse communities, and enhance our volunteer trainings.

UrbanPlan collaborated with the Real Estate Exchange (REEX) summer program in July 2020 and June 2021 to host two virtual UrbanPlan workshops reaching a total of 159 students across two two-week sessions. The REEX cohort was composed mostly of students of color (69 percent African American, 12 percent Latinx, 7 percent Asian, and 12 percent other) from 23 different states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., and over 100 students were offered full scholarships to participate in the program.


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