UrbanPlan for High Schools & Universities

I have worked on many ULI programs and initiatives. UrbanPlan is in a class by itself; advancing ULI’s mission and brand while enriching students, the broader community and ULI members alike.

Wayne S. Hyatt, Chairman, Hyatt & Stubblefield

UrbanPlan is an exciting educational initiative of the ULI developed in partnership with the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics (FCREUE) at  the University of California at Berkeley, land use professionals, and a team of high school economics teachers. The Mission of UrbanPlan is to create a more sophisticated level of discourse among local stakeholders involved in land use decisions through education of tomorrow’s voters, neighbors, community leaders, public officials, and land use professionals so, together, we can create better communities.

What Is UrbanPlan?

UrbanPlan is a realistic, engaging, and academically demanding classroom-based curriculum in which students learn about the fundamental forces that affect development in the United States. Students experience the challenging issues, private and public sector roles, complex trade-offs, and fundamental economics in play when proposing realistic land use solutions to vexing growth challenges. UrbanPlan is a curriculum unit for core content classes at the high school and university  levels (using identical curricula).

Read what ULI members, university professors and high school teachers say about UrbanPlan.

UrbanPlan at the High School–Creating Informed Citizens

The curriculum was developed for and is only supported in economics and selected government classes. The curriculum aligns with all state and national content standards for high school economics and provides a much-needed local government component to government classes. For more information, see our Teacher FAQ.

UrbanPlan at the University–Professional Development

UrbanPlan at the university will create land use professionals–developers, planners, architects, investors, and policy makers–who are more sophisticated and effective when they enter the workforce. UrbanPlan moves students from a theoretical and ideological understanding of their discipline to the practical realities and demands of the development team and process.

The primary target is graduate students whose focus is land use: city and regional planning, MBA/real estate, and architecture. It can be effective in carefully selected fourth-year undergraduate classes. It is not designed for students whose professional focus does not relate to land use. For more information, see our University Professor FAQ.

How Does UrbanPlan Work in the Classroom?

Student development teams respond to a “request for proposals” for the redevelopment of a blighted site 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 a visceral understanding of the various market and nonmarket forces and stakeholders in the development process. They must reconcile the often-competing agendas to create a well-designed, market-responsive, and sustainable project.

Teams address challenging financial, market, 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.

At strategic times during the project, land use professionals, who have attended a full day of UrbanPlan volunteer training, interact several times with the student teams.

  • As “Facilitators,” through Socratic interaction, volunteers challenge the students to think more critically about the UrbanPlan issues and the specific responsibilities of their “role” (financial analyst, marketing director, site planner, city liaison, neighborhood liaison).
  • As “Presenters,” UrbanPlan volunteers engage in interactive discussions with students on the member’s own project work or specific professional challenges. Through thoughtful questioning, the presenter helps students relate these issues and decisions to struggles the students are experiencing in UrbanPlan.
  • As “City Council,” UrbanPlan volunteers hear student presentations, challenge their proposals as would happen in an actual city council hearing, and award the development contract to the winning development team.

The Impact

In the United States:

  • UrbanPlan has reached over 40,000 high school and university students since 2003
  • 17 ULI District Councils and 2 satellites will run UrbanPlan programs this 2016-17 academic year
  • More members (2,400+), including trustees, governors, and product council members, participate in UrbanPlan than in any other national or local ULI program
  • UrbanPlan reached over 3,100 students and ran in 104 classrooms at 32 high schools in academic year 2015-16
  • 12 universities ran UrbanPlan in graduate MBA, City & Regional Planning, and Architecture programs in academic year 2015-16
  • 671 volunteers donated 2,588 hours to the program in academic year 2015-16

In Europe:

  • In the 2016-17 academic year, the program is growing to include Ireland and Germany
  • 512 pupils participated in ULI United Kingdom’s inaugural year of UrbanPlan at 19 London-based schools and five additional schools across England and Scotland in academic year 2015-16 (learn more)
  • 120 volunteers donated 1,200 hours to the program in academic year 2015-16

The George Lucas Educational Foundation

In October 2010, the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) selected UrbanPlan as one of only 20 programs running in the United States, from kindergarten through 12th grade, for its “What Works in Education” series. GLEF’s mission is to create awareness of innovative and effective curricula and program models in grades k through 12. This GLEF “Developing Minds: UrbanPlan” video, created for its educator audience, can be viewed here.

Get Involved

For more information, email Sophie Lambert, ULI’s Senior Director of UrbanPlan at sophie.lambert@uli.org

UrbanPlan is implemented in each community through ULI’s district councils. Unfortunately, ULI is unable to support UrbanPlan in high schools in communities that do not have a district council. If you are interested in bringing UrbanPlan to a university in a community with no district council, please contact Sophie Lambert to see if it is feasible.

For District Council UrbanPlan staff and leadership access to the Dropbox folder with UrbanPlan resources, please email Sophie Lambert.

Developing Minds: UrbanPlan



Better Communities Through Education