Urban Land Institute St. Louis Empowers High School Students to Engage in Land Use Decisions

ULI’s Urban Plan Addresses Ferguson Commission Recommendations 

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) St. Louis is wrapping up the second year of a high school education program designed to empower students to more fully understand and participate in land use decisions.  UrbanPlan is part of a larger ULI community initiative to address equity issues in real estate development detailed in the landmark Ferguson Commission report.  To date, ULI volunteers have taught more than 100 students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District how land use decisions impact their communities, empowering them to have a voice in how development takes place.   UrbanPlan gives students a project-based experience in developing realistic land use solutions to vexing urban growth challenges.

“Urban Plan creatively connects students with the built environment and the decisions that affect land use in their communities and neighborhoods,” said Bradley Johnson, a teacher and business and marketing department chair for McCluer South-Berkeley High School.  “This learning process enables students to make more informed decisions and to exercise the clout they have to shape any development in their communities.”  Johnson is also a career and technical education department advisor for the local chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA).

ULI has engaged more than 40 of its members to volunteer in the UrbanPlan initiative. Operating in each of the school district’s three high schools, teachers are trained by ULI in the UrbanPlan curriculum. The teachers provide the daily instruction during which students learn the roles, issues, trade-offs, and economics involved in urban development. ULI volunteers, professionals working in all aspects of the real estate development industry, work with the students on a periodic basis, facilitating discussions among student team members and helping the students understand the impact of their decisions. The curriculum culminates in a presentation of a development proposal by each student team to a ‘City Council’ comprised of ULI volunteers.

“ULI’s commitment to UrbanPlan epitomizes social responsibility,” noted Johnson

“The vast experience of ULI’s membership in all aspects of responsible land use and real estate development helps students think civically about real estate decisions that affect their lives.”

The UrbanPlan curriculum, a carefully crafted hybrid of project and problem-based learning, was developed several years ago through the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley and ULI to help high school juniors and seniors discover how the forces of our market economy clash and collaborate with the nonmarket forces in our representative democracy to create the built environment in which they live.

“Our decision to launch UrbanPlan emerged from ULI’s desire to address some of the real estate-related and youth education issues raised by the Ferguson Commission,” said Chip Crawford, senior principal at BatesForum and ULI St. Louis Chair.   “There is a real need to educate future generations about the responsible use of land and the need for an active and educated civic voice.  The students we reach through UrbanPlan are future voters, neighbors, community leaders, public officials, and land use professionals – all with a stake in seeing St. Louis prosper.”

Crawford said UrbanPlan is part of an extensive ULI Equitable Communities initiative which leverages ULI’s broad real estate expertise to advance the Ferguson Commission’s call for prioritizing transit-oriented development, building healthy affordable housing and stabilizing middle-market neighborhoods.

Leading the ULI UrbanPlan initiative are Colleen McNitt-Ruiz of Lathrop GageTraci Pupillo of Blitz Bardgett & Deutsch, and Aaron Williams of Penn Services.

With more than 240 members, ULI St. Louis unites thought leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.  Its members include real estate, design, construction, institutional, legal and accounting professionals along with civic leadership.   For more information, visit www.stlouis.uli.org.

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