Advisory Services Launches Virtual Panel Offerings

In response to the travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, ULI developed Advisory Services offerings that can be conducted virtually. These services are ideal for land use, real estate, and municipal policy challenges that may not require a site visit from ULI. 

“We’re extremely proud of our ability to meet the moment by offering our signature program in the virtual space,” said Deborah Kerson Bilek, vice president of Advisory ServicesThrough innovating in design, the virtual Advisory Services panel program continues to deliver actionable recommendations that have a long-lasting impact on communities across the globe.(Learn more about virtual Advisory Services offerings on the program’s website.) 

During fiscal year 2020, Advisory Services completed a virtual panel for Montgomery County, Maryland, and virtual project analysis sessions for Fayetteville, Arkansas; Brampton, Ontario; and Rochester, New York.  

Growth Policy Review for Montgomery County, Maryland 

In April 2020, the Montgomery County Planning Department was in the process of updating its Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP), the document that guides the balance of the county’s growth with infrastructure. Montgomery Planning asked the Advisory Services program to convene a virtual Advisory Services panel (vASP) to review and provide recommendations on Montgomery Planning’s preliminary recommendations on the update of the policy’s schools element. The panel also provided a national perspective on best practices and resources related to policies that guide growth, infrastructure funding, and school capacity issues.  

“Montgomery Planning greatly appreciates the ULI panel’s insightful, innovative, and practical recommendations, which will help guide drafting of the policy update,” said Jason Sartori, chief of the Planning Department’s Functional Planning and Policy Division. “Under pandemic conditions, the virtual Advisory Services panel ensured that we could reap the full benefits of the Advisory Services program and the extensive expertise of a diverse panel in a timely manner.”  

After receiving the panel’s feedback on the proposed policy updates, Montgomery Planning published its policy recommendationsin June 2020, and the Montgomery Planning Board voted on the SSP update in late July. In September, Montgomery Planning’s updated policy recommendations were presented to the County Counciland in November the County Council voted to adopt many of the Planning Board’s recommendations, including eliminating the county’s housing moratorium.

The panel was chaired by Glenda Hood of Hood Partners in Orlando, Florida, who was joined by Eric Fladagercity of Fort Worth, Texas; Geoff Koski, Bleakly Advisory Group, Atlanta; and Heather Worthington, Worthington Advisors, St. Paul.  

This vASP was ULI’s first such program executed in an entirely virtual format. Read the panel’s recommendations in the final report. 

  • Montgomery Planning greatly appreciates the ULI panel’s insightful, innovative, and practical recommendations, which will help guide drafting of the policy update. Under pandemic conditions, the virtual Advisory Services panel ensured that we could reap the full benefits of the Advisory Services program and the extensive expertise of a diverse panel in a timely manner.

    – Jason Sartori, chief of the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Functional Planning and Policy Division

Brampton, Ontario 

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Transportfan70

Brampton sought a project analysis session regarding its Riverwalk, where the city aims to incorporate placemaking and public realm improvements with resilience strategies to mitigate flood risk and revitalize downtown Brampton. As a growing and diverse city outside Toronto, Brampton is looking to densify, urbanize, and grow sustainably.   

Originally intended to be conducted in person during the 2020 Spring Meeting, the project analysis session was completed virtually in June 2020 after the Advisory Services program had pivoted to virtual offerings. This popular format convenes a small panel of experts to provide recommendations on land use challenges in a matter of hours.  

The city asked the panelists for recommendations on how to maximize the impact of the Riverwalk on downtown revitalization and urbanization; how to stimulate development and governance, taking into account COVID-19; and what would constitute the recommended resilience, programming, and placemaking features.  

The panel, chaired by Alan Razak of AthenianRazak in Philadelphia, emphasized that the city must meaningfully engage the community in articulating Brampton’s identity as a starting point for building long-term capacity and confidence in revitalization efforts. Creating a culture of stewardship among local civic leadership and the business community can also build support for the Riverwalk and future revitalization projects, the panel said. 

“We appreciate the very detailed, comprehensive, and extremely useful advice provided for the Riverwalk project and our downtown revitalization efforts,” city representatives wrote. Following the advice of the panel, Riverwalk Area Urban Design Master Plan is being developed. The city has initiated an engagement plan, forming a Community Liaison Team with community representatives, and held its first virtual public information session in October 2020.  

Also on the panel were Uwe Brandes, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; Lisette van Doorn, ULI Europe, Amsterdam; Kathryn Firth, NBBJ, Boston (now of FPdesign, London); and Eric Larson, Downtown Detroit Partnership, Detroit.  

To bring an Advisory Services panel to your community, contact Advisory Services. ULI Members are also invited to apply to serve as a panelist on a future Advisory Services panel by submitting an inquiry on Navigator

(Cover photo credit: Credit: Montgomery Planning)

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