Foster improved development dialogue with UrbanPlan


UrbanPlan is a program developed by the Urban Land Institute to engage communities in an interactive dialogue about the challenging issues, varying private and public sector roles, complex tradeoffs, and economics that are at play in land use and development decisions.

UrbanPlan workshops are hands-on, interactive simulations in which participants work as competing development teams to respond to a hypothetical request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of a neighborhood in the fictitious City of Yorktown. Teams work together with Legos, a site map, and a financial analysis tool to create a feasible proposal with a completed site plan that meets the RFP’s objectives, the community’s interests and the investors’ bottom line.

The UrbanPlan case study is an example of a city-led redevelopment effort where compromise is needed from the locality, the development team selected through the RFP, and the community. By taking on the role of developer, participants in the workshop get a chance to broaden their knowledge in the following areas:

  • the basics of a pro forma and funding of a complex project;
  • the economics of different building types and community benefits;
  • the different time horizons for the public and private sectors;
  • the risk associated with lengthy negotiations among all parties; and
  • the importance of a clear and open process in the selection of a private partner.

Who Attends UrbanPlan Workshops?

This experience is useful for people who are relatively new to the land development process as well as to those who are very experienced in one part of the process but want a better understanding of the big picture.

Participants in UrbanPlan for “Public Officials” have included Mayors, City Councilors, Planning Commissioners, municipal staff, neighborhood leaders, and more.

Other versions of UrbanPlan have been developed to offer in university and high school classrooms.

Volunteers are drawn from ULI’s membership which includes developers, designers, engineers, attorneys, financiers, planners, and other land use and real estate professionals.

What is Needed from ULI UrbanPlan Volunteers?

ULI Indiana will deliver approximately three UrbanPlan workshops in 2019. Up to 24 trained volunteers will be needed. At any given workshop, volunteers may be asked to serve in the following roles:

  • Team Advisors: Work with the participants throughout the workshop by serving on one of the teams to guide and advise them and help them translate their decisions into the pre-formatted spreadsheet template on a laptop. (Approx. 6-7 hours/ Entire workshop)
  • Visiting Facilitators: Visit with the participants twice during the program for one hour each time asking challenging questions using the Socratic method to help them think through their decisions. (Approx. 2-3 hours including lunch)
  • City Council Members: Join the program at the end of the day by role-playing city council members and evaluating the participants’ project proposals. The “Council” listens to the final presentations, asks questions, provides feedback, and selects the best team response to the RFP. (Approx. 2 hours)

Before serving in any of these valued roles, all volunteers must attend an UrbanPlan Volunteer Training session in which they will experience the UrbanPlan role-playing scenario for themselves.

In order to volunteer we ask that you have:

  • membership in ULI;
  • at least 5 years of professional experience in real estate and land use;
  • a flexible schedule to be able to participate in future workshops (1-3 per year); and
  • patience and communications skills to work with the participants to understand the process of putting together a real estate development proposal for a city.

For more details on offering UrbanPlan, or to express your interest in being trained as an UrbanPlan volunteer, contact:

Ben Houle
Landworx Engineering