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ULI Atlanta: Inspiring best practices for land use and development

By Guest Columnist HEATHER HUBBLE, ULI Atlanta Advisory Board

Shaping the Future of the Built Environment for Transformative Impact in Communities Worldwide. This is the mission of the Urban Land Institute, a global nonprofit education and research organization, founded in 1936, with a strong local chapter. Across the globe, and across our region, ULI members are engaged in land use and planning, as well as research, government and academia. ULI Atlanta has over 1,400 members throughout the Atlanta region and is one of the largest and most active District Councils in the United States.

Heather Hubble

Heather Hubble

Those of us who are active in ULI represent all facets of real estate, land use and planning. We are focused on inspiring the best practices for equitable and sustainable land use through education, collaboration, mentorship and knowledge sharing. And, because ULI is a worldwide organization, we are able to apply our collective global experience to address common challenges such as sustainability, smart growth, place making and workforce housing.

Among the organization’s most impactful programs is its Center for Leadership program. Each year, ULI Atlanta announces a Leadership class of professionals with a shared commitment to building a better Atlanta. The class make-up is multidisciplinary, and represents individuals with backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public sector, finance, engineering, law and more to work together for nine months on a variety of specific real estate challenges.

A local government, public agency or non-profit organization within the Atlanta region submits an application to the class members with a land use, real estate or community development challenge to brainstorm solutions. The projects, known as m-TAPS (mini-Technical Assistance Panels) provide an unprecedented opportunity for professionals to step outside of their own companies to flex their creative muscles and work together across disciplines to solve “real world” challenges faced by local communities. It is one of the most tangible ways to help advance the mission and thought leadership of ULI.

I had the privilege of participating in the ULI Center for Leadership program several years ago, and it was an extremely valuable experience. Each participant brings different skills and experiences to the table and it’s exciting to see how we can draw on these strengths to devise solutions to metro Atlanta development issues. The Leadership class divides into teams, where members work collaboratively.

It’s a significant commitment, but absolutely worth the time and effort. And, at the end of the program, the municipalities and organizations that submitted challenges end up with realistic solutions that address their specific needs, and can be implemented immediately or down the road. For a younger professional, the program gives him or her the exposure and visibility to have input into the full scope of a land use project. And it’s really exciting to see some of those creative ideas implemented.

Heather Hubble, panel

ULI Atlanta UrbanPlan volunteers act as city council members for the UrbanPlan process/program. Each student team presents their project to the city council in the hopes of being “awarded” the project. Pictured (L-R): Heather Hubble, TSW principal; Wendell Burkes, Regions Bank; Ron Grunwald, JLL; and Geoff Koski, KB Advisory Group. (Photo courtesy of ULI Atlanta)

Another outstanding ULI program I’ve been involved with is UrbanPlan. The program is a realistic, engaging exercise in which high school and college students, community leaders or public officials learn the fundamental forces that affect real estate development in our communities. Through the program, participants do a deep dive into challenging development issues, private and public sector roles, complex trade-offs and fundamental economics in play when proposing land use solutions to difficult and complex growth challenges.

ULI leadership hopes that by giving UrbanPlan participants a hands-on learning experience about all the facets of land use and development, they will become inspired to take an active role as engaged citizens and offer thoughtful, informed input to better their communities. The program is especially valuable for community leaders since many have never worked directly in the planning and development arenas.

ULI Atlanta is committed to advancing ULI’s mission of “Shaping the future of the built environment for transformative impact in communities worldwide,” and does this through a variety of activities including: virtual and in-person gatherings that elevate the latest trends and issues in real estate and the built environment; sending timely newsletters; publishing reports and case studies; and developing young and senior leaders in shaping the future of our city and region.

We are fortunate that so many highly respected and talented members of the real estate industry, academic professionals and government officials value and participate in ULI Atlanta, and I find incredible value in my participation, contribution and civic leadership. While it may not be obvious to the casual observer, the work this organization does and the education it provides, benefit all of us who live and work in Greater Atlanta.

Notes to readers:

Heather Hubble in an architect, LEED AP and principal with TSW, in addition to serving on the Advisory Board of ULI Atlanta.

A Sept. 15 program exemplifies ULI Atlanta’s work in the region: “From Summerhill to West End: The Convergence of Growth and Responsible Development.” The program note states: “Over the past three years, the neighborhoods bounded by I-20 and the southside Atlanta BeltLine trail have become ground zero for market-changing development. … Come hear from local leaders as they discuss the accelerated growth and how to develop responsibly in the Southside BeltLine neighborhoods.” For information click here.



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