ULI has long been known for raising awareness about "best practices" and honoring them through the Awards for Excellence program and others. But rarely has it honored individuals whose work and values reflect the mission of ULI: to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.
But in 2000 that changed with the launch of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. The prize was designed to spotlight individuals or organizations employing innovative processes, techniques, and insights to obtain the highest-quality development, practices, and policies, as well as to focus public attention on the importance of truly visionary community development.
While the prize encourages creativity, it also recognizes the core principles of community values, spirit, and cohesiveness espoused by J.C. Nichols.
Laureates of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development
2000 Joseph P. Riley, Jr., mayor, Charleston, South Carolina. For his fastidious attention to the economic and social well-being of Charleston that drove its renaissance and for his national leadership on urban design and community revitalization issues, especially through the development of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.
2001 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S. senator, D-New York. For using his national platform as a lifelong public servant to advocate excellence in urban design and public building architecture, and for his focus on community revitalization issues.
2002 Gerald D. Hines, founder and chairman, Hines. For his work as a development industry leader whose projects are renowned for excellence in design, environmental sustainability, and high-quality business operations. By making architecture a valuable commodity, Hines changed the nature of commercial real estate development.
2003 Vincent J. Scully, Jr., professor and architecture historian, Yale University and the University of Miami. For his life’s work using the power of ideas and images to teach about the impact of architecture in helping to create better places; his legendary lectures have been absorbed by hundreds of professionals who are putting his ideas to work.
2004 Richard D. Baron, cofounder and CEO, McCormack Baron Salazar, St. Louis. For his long commitment to developing high-quality, well-designed mixed-income communities in neglected neighborhoods and providing consequent social services to help low-income residents improve their situations.
2005 Albert B. Ratner, cochairman, Forest City Enterprises, and Forest City Enterprises (corecipients). For their commitment to the city and developing high-quality projects that build a sense of community while creating value.
2006 Peter Calthorpe, principal, Calthorpe Associates. For ensuring that the four principles of diversity, building to human scale, restoring and preserving buildings, and taking a regional perspective are considered for each community he designs. His regional visioning work has exemplified those principles.
2007 Sir Stuart Lipton, deputy chairman, Chelsfield Partners, London. For his high-quality and innovative developments that have transformed derelict sites into thriving employment centers and, through high-quality design and thoughtful urbanism, created places that generate civic pride.
2008 F. Barton Harvey III, former chair and CEO, Enterprise Community Partners and Enterprise (corecipients). For their entrepreneurship and commitment to providing affordable housing, seeking creative funding sources and capital to help meet housing goals, and to making significant positive changes to housing policies.
2009 Amanda M. Burden, chair, New York City Planning Commission/director, New York City Department of City Planning. For her extraordinary accomplishment in urban planning and her effectiveness at implementing a vision of dynamic city life and great public urban open spaces. 2010
2010 Richard M. Daley, mayor, Chicago. For his long and dedicated tenure as mayor and his work to transform Chicago into a revitalized international metropolis, bringing together the built and natural environments to make the city more sustainable, livable, and dynamic.
Jeannette Nichols, wife of J.C. Nichols’s son Miller Nichols, says J.C. Nichols approached development in terms of building entire, connected communities. "When J.C. Nichols built homes, he thought of all the other aspects of a person’s life—art, culture, education, shopping, worship—and he incorporated them into his neighborhoods. J.C. Nichols built for permanence," she says.
Nichols positioned homes to take full advantage of the sun’s east-to-west movement. He built homes to suit the landscape; he did not alter the landscape to suit the homes. Nichols expected homeowners to plant trees and shrubs. He established homeowners associations to sustain the neighborhoods he built and to keep homeowners accountable, instilling in them a sense of pride and belonging.
J.C. Nichols Fountain by Henri-Léon
Gréber (1910), at Country Club Plaza
in Kansas City, Missouri.
Country Club Plaza, which Nichols built in 1922 in anticipation of the explosive popularity of the automobile, carried on Nichols’s tradition of incorporating attractive architecture and sculptures into his developments. Country Club Plaza’s Spanish motif, including several towers with intricate, colorful tile work, served to "set off the shopping center and make it inviting," Jeannette Nichols said. "He didn’t want people just to come shopping. He wanted them to spend time there, to enjoy being there."
Miller Nichols, who succeeded his father in the J.C. Nichols Company, made changes over the years to keep Country Club Plaza current with patrons’ needs, but its role as a community energizer has remained constant, Mrs. Nichols said. Today, customs that were started in the 1920s—such as yuletide lights and an arts fair—still are favorites with Kansas City residents.
Wayne Nichols, the grandson of J.C. Nichols, said his grandfather understood the difference between simply building subdivisions connected by streets and utility lines, and building neighborhoods connected by community events and shared amenities. Indeed, J.C. Nichols never described his developments as subdivisions. "J.C. Nichols believed that you must create the software of communities as well as the hardware. In this respect, he was very much a visionary. His imprint, his giving the community an identity, is still alive," Wayne Nichols said. It is that sense of community, of togetherness, that makes J.C. Nichols’s work so important to modern community planning.
The ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development is funded by an endowment from the family of J.C. Nichols. The first recipient was Joseph P. Riley, Jr., mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. Since its inception, recipients have been four public officials, five developers, one designer, and one academician.
Anish Kapoor's sculputure Cloud Gate,
popularly known as "the Bean,"
The presentation of the first ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development coincided with the 50th anniversary of the J.C. Nichols Foundation—now the ULI Foundation—which was created in 1950 by ULI trustees to perpetuate Nichols’s ideals. In the 1940s, Nichols was instrumental in moving ULI forward by leading the establishment of the Institute’s Community Builders Council (CBC). The council served as a forum in which industry professionals in the United States and Canada could exchange ideas and offer analyses of real estate practices. CBC meetings led to publication of The Community Builders Handbook,
produced by Nichols, which was the first authoritative publication on community planning and the forerunner of subsequent ULI development handbooks. The objectives of the CBC are carried out today by a wide range of specialized ULI councils.
J.C. Nichols and some of his peers believed in the benefits of collaboration even in the early 1900s when they would get on trains to "visit each other, throw their plans out on the table, and help each other design communities," Wayne Nichols said. "Their goal was to create beautiful communities—not subdivisions, not shopping centers, but long-term, integrated planned communities. They saw themselves as building human environments. Their motto was ‘Land development is a responsibility, not a right.’ " That collaborative spirit and the values they espoused live in ULI today through the Nichols Prize and through many ULI programs.
This article was adapted from a brochure published by ULI in 2000.