A generous donation from the late James J. Curtis III, former ULI Foundation chairman, will help identify and promote infrastructure solutions in cities globally.

ULI has announced the launch of the Curtis Infrastructure Initiative, a multiyear initiative to identify and promote infrastructure solutions to create equitable, resilient cities and enhance long-term community value.

The initiative aims to provide research and practical tools to help ULI members advance infrastructure investment and identify new solutions to local infrastructure issues, as well as directly support member engagement at the local level through the Institute’s 52 district councils. In the first year alone, $15,000 to $25,000 will be provided to six district councils to launch a series of technical-assistance and capacity-building projects that will provide recommendations and take local action to address complex infrastructure challenges. Additional grants will be awarded to district councils in future years.

To secure the funding, each district council has been asked to submit proposals that focus on creating impact through implementation of a plan of action that will result in such outcomes as shifts in policy and practice, changes in community/industry priorities, changes in design/planning, new infrastructure projects, or a combination of these. The Curtis Infrastructure Initiative will take lessons learned from these projects to develop a toolkit for infrastructure implementation to provide replicable solutions. The term infrastructure covers transportation; critical utilities (energy, water, waste, and telecommunications); and the key spaces that build community (anchor institutions, housing, and parks and open space).

Overseeing the strategic direction and providing program guidance will be the Curtis Infrastructure Initiative’s Global Advisory Board, composed of leading figures in the real estate and land use industry who will serve terms of up to three years on a voluntary basis. The board consists of:

  • Craig Lewis, principal, Stantec, who will be board chair;
  • Patrick Callahan, Americas Executive Committee member, and founder and chief executive officer, Urban Renaissance Group;
  • Debra Campbell, city manager of Asheville, North Carolina;
  • Stephen Engblom, executive vice president, AECOM;
  • Todd Mansfield, former ULI global chairman, and chairman and chief executive officer, Crescent Communities;
  • Kelly Nagel, senior vice president, Stoltz Real Estate Partners;
  • Mike Parker, Americas infrastructure leader, EY;
  • Tyrone Rachal, president, Urban Key Capital Partners; and
  • Leslie Woo, Americas Executive Committee member, and chief executive officer, CivicAction and CivicAction Leadership Foundation.

“We are very excited to be launching this initiative to build a movement to address our complex infrastructure challenges,” says Lewis. “We are in a moment of time that is facing multiple crises of which infrastructure is the tie that binds us altogether. Building globally competitive infrastructure is more than just addressing crumbling roads and bridges; it is also about setting up systems that help us recover from COVID-19, eliminate racial injustice, and are resilient to our changing climate. I am humbled to be chairing such an exemplary board to meet these challenges.”

“ULI is at the forefront of finding solutions to real estate challenges,” says Gwyneth Jones Coté, president of ULI Americas. “The Curtis Infrastructure Initiative is an example of how the Institute continues to lead the way in bringing together the brightest minds in the industry, and it has really energized thousands of our members at a local level to take a proactive role in addressing infrastructure issues. Our district councils are determined to facilitate local action through public/private partnerships, and we look forward to the outcomes of the first grants awarded during ULI’s Virtual Fall Meeting, which took place last month.”

The Initiative has initially funded programs in six district councils, which will work on different aspects of infrastructure:

  • ULI Cincinnati: The district council will conduct six workshops to accelerate the proposed 34-mile (55 km) Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network (CROWN) urban trail loop to improve equity and development of affordable housing in underserved areas. The district council and partner TriState Trails see completion of the trail and the access it will provide as an opportunity for improving global competitiveness and economic mobility.
  • ULI Dallas–Fort Worth: The district council will conduct a technical assistance panel to recommend infrastructure priorities in Fort Worth’s historically Black Stop Six neighborhood as part of the city’s match for a significant U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant. The project will involve civic leaders and community voices in determining the best way to allocate the local funds for infrastructure to support equitable investment.
  • ULI Louisiana: The district council will conduct a technical assistance panel in Baton Rouge’s Plank Road corridor to identify opportunities for free internet access through 5G. This would build on efforts by the city to implement the recommended plans in the Imagine Plank Road small area plan.
  • ULI Minnesota: The district council will work with ReConnect Rondo and the Minnesota Department of transportation to hold a series of workshops in St. Paul on developing the Rondo community land bridge covering Interstate 94 through a public, private, philanthropic, and people (P4) model. This work builds on recommendations from an Advisory Services panel completed as part of ULI’s involvement with the 10 Minute Walk partnership.
  • ULI San Antonio: The district council will convene a task force to explore innovative and equitable mobility services to maximize transportation tax revenue, reduce vehicle-miles traveled and expand first- and last-mile solutions in the VIA Metropolitan Transit system. This includes the goal of providing better access to education across the city and region.
  • ULI Toronto: The district council will conduct four workshops to develop the concept of transit-oriented communities, a broader concept than transit-oriented development. This includes identifying steps and strategies for equitable, dense development that aligns with provincial goals to urbanize some of Greater Toronto’s suburban development pattern.

The Curtis Infrastructure Initiative is named for the late James (Jim) J. Curtis III, a former ULI Foundation chairman and managing partner of the San Francisco–based real estate investment and development firm Bristol Group, who passed away in 2019 at age 65. Known for being passionate about his interests—including ULI, of which he had been a member for nearly 40 years—he believed that “we shape our infrastructure, and thereafter our infrastructure shapes us.”

Curtis was keenly interested in the role of infrastructure as a key component of thriving communities. The ULI/Curtis Regional Infrastructure Initiative, active from 2008 to 2011, involved the Institute’s content team collaborating with four district councils to design and implement ambitious programs addressing regional infrastructure challenges. Through the initiative, ULI sought to improve infrastructure decision-making by linking land use with regional transportation and sustainable development considerations in Florida, Chicago, Minnesota, and Seattle.

“Jim lived and breathed the values of ULI, and he shared his time and wisdom with members and the next generation of industry leaders unconditionally,” says W. Edward Walter, ULI global chief executive officer. “Through his generous donation, he has established a legacy for us to put infrastructure at the heart of creating and sustaining thriving communities.”

For more information, visit americas.uli.org/infrastructure-initiative.

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