UrbanPlan for Elected Officials Simulation

The National League of Cities (NLC) is an organization that provides educational opportunities, resources, and services to a broad range of members, typically from the public sector, including local officials and staff from more than 2,000 municipalities around the country. In March, the NLC held its annual Congressional City Conference in Washington D.C., where I took part in a joint session helping to facilitate a continuing education class on how the balance of stakeholder, finance, and design opportunities and constraints occur during the project development process.

The session, "UrbanPlan for Elected Officials," was adapted from the nationwide UrbanPlan program that was first introduced by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) as an interactive class for students attending the University of California, Berkeley 15 years ago. As a member of the Washington District Council of the ULI, I recently had the opportunity to partake in a steering committee to help transition the classroom curriculum for use within the public sector, specifically for local governments and elected officials.

This program provides participants with the chance to partake in a realistic, yet theoretical situation of responding to a request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of a blighted urban area. During the "UrbanPlan for Elected Officials" session, participants formed teams and assumed the roles of professionals that typically work together to establish a development plan and response to the RFP. Each team was presented with varying hypothetical growth challenges, economic and budgetary constraints, and difficult trade-off scenarios that can often affect the formation of viable land use solutions.

After a day's worth of problem solving and envisioning different growth patterns in accordance with the given challenges and constraints, the teams presented their responses to a mock city council. Participants left the session having gained innovative strategies for overcoming potential barriers to development and consistent growth, as well as a stronger understanding of how to successfully integrate and implement different stakeholders' visions for a community. One participant stated after the class, "I'm going to approach development projects differently when I go back home."

The session that was offered at the NLC Congressional City Conference was the first time the adapted version of the UrbanPlan program was presented to professionals of the public sector, and it was a success. ULI has progressed with additional pilots and is moving quickly towards a release of the UrbanPlan for Public Officials version later this year. I'm excited to see how this program develops in the future to help improve dialogue about urban land use and the land development process.

  • Dan Anderton
    Dan Anderton
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