UrbanPlan Newsletter: The Hero in the Cubicle Next Door
ULI Nashville, your everyday heroes are truly why UrbanPlan’s inaugural year has been a success!
ULI Nashville’s first UrbanPlan workshop affirmed the potential of ULI’s global initiative to affect profound change in the Nashville community.
After a year of preparation and months of connecting with supporters and partners, ULI Nashville’s first UrbanPlan (UP) workshop took place, July 13-14th. In partnership with the Civic Design Center and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) ULI Nashville hosted 15 students from the UTK College of Architect & Design for the land development fundamentals exercise.
Students navigated the multi-layered case study at the heart of UP with an intensity that one participant stated was “frankly, unexpected.”
“At first, I thought the workshop would be very surface-level and light, but once we got started the intensity gradually escalated, and by the end of the first day, my team was fully committed to the process. As a third-year Architecture major, I was surprised by how much I don’t know about how communities are built. UrbanPlan makes you aware of the many elements that are involved in shaping and defining the culture of a neighborhood.”
Over the course of the two-day workshop, 11 ULI Nashville member volunteers supported the competing “design firms,” providing professional guidance and words of encouragement during challenging moments.
Tara Myers, a Principal at Earl Swensson Associates (ESa) and UP steering committee co-chair, has been a faithful supporter of the new initiative, including dedicating her time to directly support students through the process as a Team Advisor. Myers noted, “Development professionals personalize the program through their individual experiences. Students are able to engage with and learn from a variety of industry professionals. We need to maintain a diverse pool of development professionals so that all students have the opportunity to see themselves in the shoes of the professionals who lead.”
Along with Civic Design and UTK, Urban Housing Solutions and Pillars Development, LLC. generously supported UP’s Nashville debut with presentations both days of the workshop, demonstrating the ongoing collaborative endeavors of the local development community.
Gary Gaston, CEO of the Civic Design Center and a long-time ULI Nashville member facilitated using the UTK summer design class to host Nashville’s inaugural UP workshop. When Gaston learned of the UP program, he also considered how UP might align with the Civic Design Center’s education work. This lead to the “education continuum” concept that ULI Nashville, the Civic Design Center and other partners are currently exploring. The Civic Design Center’s Design Your Neighborhood is a program that engages middle school and high school students in the design process.
The program’s natural alignment and similar goals to UP inspired Gaston and former ULI Nashville Director Rose Faeges-Easton to collaborate with the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and ACE Mentor Program to develop an education continuum where each program has a specific role in supporting student learning about design and development from elementary through college. Gaston explained, “The idea and goal is to take our four programs that each have their own unique curriculum and grade-level demographics but share an overarching purpose of educating our youth on design and development, align the organizations to work together in creating seamless movement through each phase of the education system- elementary, middle school, high school, and college to ensure that students are receiving consistent, sound education about design and development and in turn, that our organizations are in step with one another in operation, processes, and resources utilization. Nashville is a small town; the best outcomes happen when we work together and avoid time-wasting overlap or unintentionally stepping on each other’s toes.”
UTK professors Will Rosenthal and Clay Adkisson, who teach the design course, are ULI Nashville members, and managing partners of the local development firm openworks are also big UrbanPlan supporters. After reviewing the UP curriculum, witnessing the level of engagement students had in the process, and listening to their testimonials about the experience, the professors decided to implement UP permanently as part of the summer semester course curriculum.
The success of Nashville’s first UrbanPlan workshop and all those to follow is possible because of the many individuals who have invested in the idea of building diversity and equity into the local development industry by educating the next generation on the fundamentals. Many thanks to all who support ULI Nashville’s efforts, and to those who dedicate their time to making a positive change.