To help improve the competitive and sustainable performance of Europe’s cities in the face of global competition, ULI Europe and its partners in 2009 created the Urban Investment Network to forge a permanent dialogue between public and private sector organizations committed to better urban investment.

The network’s founding partners are four cities and four companies: Barcelona, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and Istanbul, and ING Real Estate Development, Allianz Real Estate, Eurohypo, and ECE ProjektManagement. These partners are supported by essential knowledge partners: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Ecorys Group, the International Public Transport Association (UITP), and most recently, Ernst & Young.

Since the network’s launch at ULI’s annual Paris conference in February 2009, it has promoted its agenda for investment in cities at a number of events by focusing on how cities can build relationships with investors even when public finance is scarce.

Among the insights reached at network workshops are the following:

  • Public land is a critical tool for attracting private investment, but it needs to be augmented with a clear planning process and decisive leadership to secure anticipated outcomes. Many cities are developing joint venture vehicles with private investors to facilitate private investment in public assets, and it is envisioned that many cities will do this in the future to tackle the weak fiscal situation of city governments.
  • Global events such as the Olympic Games, world’s expos, and international sports tournaments are seen by business as useful tools for making investment happen because they provide branding opportunities and unlock parcels of land through new infrastructure and public investment. They also have to be managed within tight time frames that speed up decision making and provide certainty of outcome.
  • Providing more housing in Europe is essential in order to meet demand in the continent’s most successful cities. The network’s Housing Finance Forum outlines four areas that could facilitate greater private investment: encourage institutional investment; create innovative finance mechanisms; create innovative delivery structures and investment vehicles; and maintain the momentum of current activities.

As the network continues to evolve, ULI is building both new themes for work and new ways to bring cities and private sector urban investors together. Among the themes it is looking at are the following:

  • the role of institutional investors in urban development;
  • the role of investment agencies and development corporations in urban investment and public/private partnerships;
  • the future role of banks in urban investment;
  • institutional investors and urban development;
  • financing housing in successful cities;
  • city branding and urban investment;
  • critical ingredients for a city’s investment prospectus;
  • new investment funds for cities; and
  • urban and metropolitan infrastructure.

At the annual ULI conference in Paris in February 2011, ULI Europe will launch the City Investment League, at which ULI members will represent cities in pitching major investment opportunities.

From small seeds, the Urban Investment Network is up and running in Europe. ULI will now develop the platform for member use worldwide.