ULI Washington kicked-off the 2016-2017 Regional Land Use Institute on September 15, 2016 with sweeping views of downtown DC and northern Virginia from the 10th floor of the Bank of America Financial Center. The first session of the eight-month long program oriented this year’s cohort to the crucial policy challenges faced by the Washington, DC region.
An esteemed panel of speakers representing elected officials, advocacy organizations, senior-level government policymakers, and higher education institutions discussed what is currently being done to promote a coordinated regional response to transportation, affordable housing, and economic growth challenges and what more could still be done. Among other recommendations, the panel identified a need to reinstate regular recurring opportunities for regional leaders to openly communicate about how best to move forward. The interactive panel discussion also prompted numerous questions from the group seeking to understand the issues and possible solutions to regional concerns. The cohort also heard from, Robert McCartney, a longtime media reporter covering regional news for the Washington Post, on whether there is sufficient political and business leadership across the two states, District of Columbia, and 22 cities, towns and counties that make up the region to effectively address these challenges. From his perspective, political competition between the jurisdictions is natural and cannot be stopped but it does not explain a lack of cooperation to compete better against other regions. Mr. McCartney, fielded numerous questions and comments from the group.
Members of the Transportation Planning Board within the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments led a lively exercise on how to accommodate future growth in the region while taking into consideration infrastructure and environmental justice concerns. Following this exercise, the cohort divided into small groups for a personal sharing exercise with each individual providing a brief autobiography to their small group. Finally, the day concluded with a presentation and short tour of Midtown Center, Fannie Mae’s new headquarters building currently under construction on the site of the Washington Post’s former home.
After a day full of frank insights into what the region must do as whole to sustain growth, the 2016-2017 cohort enthusiastically looks forward to many more thought provoking land use policy conversations in the upcoming months.