Among the conversations I have with industry professionals about technology, shrinking resources, and other critical issues that are top-of-mind, one element always prevails: quality personnel. Yes, recruiting and retaining today’s ideal candidates is essential; but how do we interest today’s youth in the future of buildings?
Kudos, therefore, go to two organizations that have recently turned those thoughts into actions with an innovative program. More than 175 students throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area have been introduced to a curriculum called UrbanPlan to learn urban planning and development principles. Grosvenor, a private property development and investment group, has contributed $12,000 to help the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Washington District Council launch the 6-week program, which was piloted last year at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA. This year, the program will be taught at Washington-Lee and at Duke Ellington High School in Washington, D.C., as well as Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, MD. Grosvenor’s donation will cover the costs of conducting UrbanPlan in the three high schools in 2005, including the cost of laptop computer rentals, Lego®s, site maps, t-shirts, prizes, and teaching materials. Local ULI members volunteer to facilitate the course.
UrbanPlan is an engaging and academically challenging classroom-based, Web-supported program in which students learn the roles, issues, trade-offs, and economics involved in urban development. It provides future voters, community leaders, public officials, and land use professionals with a realistic experience in developing land use solutions to vexing urban growth challenges. The curriculum was developed by ULI and the University of California at Berkeley; last year’s pilot program at Washington-Lee was UrbanPlan’s first use outside California.
The curriculum is based on real-world development practice. Student teams respond to a “Request for Proposal” for the redevelopment of a blighted neighborhood in a hypothetical community. Each team member assumes one of five roles: finance director, marketing director, city liaison, neighborhood liaison, or site planner. Through these roles, students develop an in-depth understanding of the various stakeholders in the development process and the challenge of reconciling stakeholders’ diverse agendas to create a well-designed, sustainable project.
In developing their proposals, student teams address challenging financial, social, political, and design issues; develop a pro forma and three-dimensional model of their plan; and present their proposal to a “City Council” of ULI members that awards the “development contract” to the winning team.
Do you have ideas that could spur our youth toward the business of buildings? Be sure to share your ideas with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll pass them on to our 72,000-plus Buildings subscribers through this column and in future industry discussions. More importantly, however, make this investment in our industry’s future vitality one of your priorities: After all, it’s your legacy.