UrbanPlan: Educating Students about Real Estate’s Role in Shaping Communities

ULI’s UrbanPlan program is a realistic, engaging exercise in which participants—high school students, university students, or public officials—learn about the fundamental forces that affect real estate development in their communities. Participants experience the challenging issues, private- and public-sector roles, complex tradeoffs, and fundamental economics in play when proposing realistic land use solutions to vexing growth challenges.

Generously supported by member gifts to the ULI Foundation and offered through district councils and national councils, UrbanPlan has reached nearly 60,000 students and public officials globally. In the Americas, it is now offered by 32 district councils and affiliates—an increase of 47 percent from the previous year. In Europe, it is offered through national councils in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland; and in the Asia Pacific region, through national councils in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines, with further program expansions planned.

During the 2018–2019 academic year, nearly 5,000 high school and university students and over 700 public officials and community members participated in UrbanPlan in all three regions, benefiting from the expertise of more than 600 ULI member volunteers who introduced them to the land use decision-making process that determines how people experience cities.

An expansion of the program is underway, including a focus on broadening its availability in underserved communities. One example of this is the introduction of UrbanPlan by ULI St. Louis to high school districts in Ferguson, Missouri. The program has now reached more than 100 students enrolled in a variety of classes such as economics, marketing, and business technology.

  • UrbanPlan is helping students in Ferguson learn about the urban development process, and, just as important, about the value of civic engagement.”  

    – Charles Crawford, Chairman, ULI St. Louis 

“UrbanPlan is helping students in Ferguson learn about the urban development process, and, just as important, about the value of civic engagement,” said ULI St. Louis Chairman Charles “Chip” Crawford, managing director at Lamar Johnson Collaborative in St. Louis. “Local ULI members who had never before volunteered for UrbanPlan have signed up to work with the kids and teachers in Ferguson.” He noted that one of the UrbanPlan teachers ran a week-long session as part of a summer program called Dream Builders 4 Equity, and is planning on doing the same next year.

The expansion of UrbanPlan was aided in fiscal year 2019 with a ULI Foundation donation from ULI Trustee and former ULI Global Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips. Phillips’s gift builds on the scope and impact of UrbanPlan by expanding it to students from low-income communities as well as citizen leaders grappling with how to navigate changes to the built environment in their communities. “I was very pleased to help broaden the reach of UrbanPlan,” said Phillips. “Expanding it can help achieve more participation in community building from a broader representation of residents.” Philips’s donation led to the creation of an UrbanPlan Equity and Inclusion working group that is focused on increasing diversity in all aspects of the program.

Use Navigator to apply for service as an UrbanPlan volunteer.

Give to the ULI Annual Fund and the ULI Foundation to support UrbanPlan.

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