ULI Washington kicked-off the 2017-2018 Regional Land Use Institute on September 11, 2017 with the Leadership Institutes’ opening dinner in downtown DC. Prior to sharpening their skills in the classroom, participants were able to sharpen their skills in kitchen. The opening dinner took place at CulinAerie in downtown DC where participants watched live as a professional chef demonstrated the cooking instruction and preparation of the three-course meal they were about to make. After the chef’s demonstration, participants were able to prepare and enjoy their tasty creations!
After the opening dinner, the first session of the eight-month long program was held with sweeping views of downtown DC and northern Virginia from the 24th floor of the Waterview Conference Center in Rosslyn, VA. This session oriented this year’s cohort to the crucial policy challenges faced by the Washington, DC region.
The day began with an activity titled “How We Roll – Regional Travel Patterns” where participants used push pins in a regional map to identify where they work, live, and play. This map showed that this is a geographically diverse cohort that works throughout the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) region. Most of the pins, however, were located within the District of Columbia and directly adjacent communities, and the fewest number of pins were located within Prince George’s and Charles counties. This activity led into a panel discussion about what works – and what doesn’t work – within our region. The esteemed panel of speakers represented development companies, advertising and communications executives, advocacy organizations, and senior-level government policymakers that 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 attract and maintain a highly skilled workforce, transit accessibility, and the importance to unify the region as a brand. Many of these recommendations stemmed from the region’s effort to attract the Olympics, as well as future efforts to attract companies like Amazon. The interactive panel discussion also prompted numerous questions from the group seeking to understand the issues and possible solutions to regional concerns, including issues like housing affordability and early childhood care and education. The cohort also heard from Robert McCartney, a longtime regional reporter and editor 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 also fielded questions and comments from the group.
The cohort was then divided into small groups that participated in a planner-focused scavenger hunt around Rosslyn, VA, to familiarize themselves with the area and participate in a team building exercise while hunting for items such as public art, transportation infrastructure, and green buildings. 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. To conclude the program’s first day, members of the Transportation Planning Board (part of MWCOG) led a lively exercise on how to accommodate future growth in the region while taking into consideration transportation infrastructure and environmental justice concerns. Cohort teams actively discussed regional issues within their groups while planning and calculating the costs of possible solutions.
After a day full of frank insights into what the region must do as whole to sustain growth, the 2017-2018 cohort enthusiastically looks forward to many more thought provoking land use policy conversations in the upcoming months.
A Leadership Institute Class Directory is available to view here.
Post Credit: Katie List and Ian Fisher.