Over dinner recently, my husband and I joked about hyperbole in marketing and how we have grown accustomed to it. So we played around with ideas for how real estate development marketing might read if one were to downplay the superlatives. We came up with this elegant—but underachieving—pitch: “Better Than It Used to Be!” Can’t you see that one emblazoned in giant letters along the street side of a construction site? Clearly, neither of us has much of a future on Madison Avenue.

In truth, though, “better than it used to be” is not such a bad goal for redevelopment—and that’s what this issue is all about. Throughout the issue, we look at how properties are being reimagined and reinvented, and how they are helping revitalize entire cities parcel by parcel. The examples in this issue, drawn from Shanghai, Detroit, Chicago, and elsewhere, offer ideas that can be reworked and translated to fit the needs of other communities. “You can’t just find a piece of land, throw a lot of money at it, build something, and expect it to change the city. It’s got to be the right fit for that city,” notes Marty Burger, chief executive officer of Silverstein Properties, in “Outlook for Reinventing Cities.” That article, which offers insights from members of ULI’s Urban Development/Mixed Use Councils, begins on page 52.

Beginning on page 56, Mark Cooper profiles a transformative new development along the Huangpu River in Shanghai. Inspired in part by the look and feel of St. Katherine’s Dock in London, the Huishan North Bund project is focused on a 129,000-square-foot (12,000 sq m) marina; building occupants can focus on views toward some of the world’s tallest buildings, as well as commercial and recreational watercraft traversing the busy harbor.

In Detroit, long-vacant buildings—some historic—are being repurposed to accommodate the young pioneers who are bringing life back to the city. An old pawn shop is repurposed as a restaurant (but the lending signage stays); a taxi repair shop has become a distillery. Learn how both lenders and public policies play a part in these redevelopments in Jeffrey Spivak’s story, which begins on page 62.

There’s nothing like a failed development, stalled midconstruction, to cast gloom over a neighborhood. For four years, an unfinished concrete structure, intended to become a luxury condominium and hotel tower, marred the Chicago skyline. Developer Related took over the failed project in 2011, started chipping away at the existing concrete, redesigned the structure—and recast the project as rental apartments. The payoff: an eyesore was redeemed, and the building sold earlier this year at a record price for Chicago. Find more details on how the developers did it in Ryan Ori’s article, beginning on page 73.

Also, this issue includes one of my favorite features of the year: finalists for ULI’s Urban Open Space Award. This major awards program was opened to global entries this year, and our package highlighting all the finalists begins on page 83. These projects, too, echo the theme of reinvention, illustrating how cities are creating spaces that draw residents outdoors where they can interact with their community. These parks are wonderful examples of how cities are making themselves better than they used to be.

Elizabeth Razzi
Editor in Chief