ULI OC/IE Building Healthy Places Convening Report
In January, 18 professionals convened at a high-level strategic meeting to move the needle forward on health, healing, & affordable housing.
May 25, 2023
Originally published on May 19, 2023, by Victoria Lim for WorkingNation.com.
The younger generation is often looked upon as the catalyst for social change in communities. Their recent impact has been noted – social justice, gender equity, and more. But should they make decisions on traffic flow? Park elements and placement? Building reuse?
A volunteer program through the Urban Land Institute (ULI) does just that – puts in the hands of high school and college students the decisions for a five-and-a-half block neighborhood. The students’ goal is to develop a financially viable area, generate investment in the properties, allocate affordable housing, deliver utilities, and earn a certification as an eco-district. The program is called UrbanPlan.
“They learn about their role in shaping their communities. We hope they become engaged and informed citizens,” says Sophie Lambert, vice president for UrbanPlan
UrbanPlan started in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley. ULI members from various disciplines of the land use industry including real estate developers, urban planners, and nonprofit partners volunteer as instructors leading students through real-life scenarios. Divided into teams of five, each student takes on a different role to develop a fictitious neighborhood in a fictitious city.
“The students grapple with problems real cities manage while considering stakeholder groups they need to balance. For example, of the three of the existing buildings (in the fictitious neighborhood), one is designated as historic,” says Lambert. “There are a lot of different decisions. Roles have tradeoffs and compromises.”
The volunteer instructors share their expertise and meet with the teams as they develop their proposals. Teams come up with 3D site plans, a financial model, and visions for the site. ULI experts then serve as the “city council” to hear the final proposals, which mimics the process of how development proposals are selected.
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