Four of the Best Urban Renewal Projects from ULI's 2016 Fall Summit (Part 2)


A fortnight ago, a delegation of Australian urban development professionals descended on an unusually warm Dallas, Texas to attend the Urban Land Institute’s annual Fall Summit for 2016.

The four-day conference, held from October 24 – 27, assembled experts from around the world who discussed everything from emerging trends in technology, global connectivity and the impact of mass migration to the revival of rust-belt cities such as Columbus, Ohio, the value of creative place-making and creating climate-change resilient development.

And of course, along with another 5,800 delegates from around the Americas, Asia and Europe, the Australian delegates were lucky enough to experience some renowned Texan hospitality and tour some of the leading property developments the region has to offer.

Highlight Project Visits
The Australian delegation visited a number of significant property projects around Texas including:

  • Pearl Brewery, San Antonio – the former Pearl Brewery, just north of the San Antonio city centre, was a stand-out adaptive re-use project to most delegates. In operation since 1883, the site had laid derelict for many years since it closed in 2001. It is now a thriving mixed-use precinct, complete with residential apartments, commercial offices, a melting pot of 15 different cafes and restaurants, a micro-brewery as well and the wonderful Hotel Emma, recently named the 19th best hotel in the world by Conde Nast.

  • New approaches to PPPs are needed that create value for local communities, vibrant public space, new amenity and revive unconnected parts of cities. The world can learn a lot by looking to Dallas’ award winning, privately funded two-hectare Klyde Warren Park, constructed over a sunken freeway that previously divided Dallas’ CBD and its growing Uptown. The park proved to be an incredibly engaging community space, a major catalyst for the rental/capital value growth of surrounding assets and a focal point of the Dallas’ CBD.

    The importance of creating genuinely authentic places.

    With the demand from modern consumers for vibrant mixed-use communities only ever increasing, the importance of creating genuinely authentic places has never had more importance. However, the commercial reality of creating them is challenging.

    From using new approaches to engage local communities in the programming of space, to leveraging cultural institutions as anchor attractions, creating locally revered traditions that perpetuate ongoing foot traffic and creating partnerships between private developers, local communities, arts organisations and public institutions are just some of the ways in which we can create such authentic places.

    ‘Urban resorts’ such as the renowned Joule Hotel, a converted 1927 gothic-style bank, large precincts such as the Dallas Arts District (the largest in the United States) and Dalla Design District were just some local examples of revitalised, energetic and authentic destinations.


    The impact of autonomous vehicles.

    A delegate survey, found that 46 per cent of respondents, believed that autonomous cars were a technological innovation likely tohave the greatest impact on urban mobility and subsequently property development in the immediate future. The implications upon property development need to be considered now so steps can be taken to future-proof not only streetscapes and parking-stations but also new projects as a whole.

    Preparing our cities for climate change resilience.

    Cities and urban areas now face a wide array of risk and vulnerability that could pose numerous challenges into the future for property developers, investors, policy makers and governments alike.

    The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) demonstrated the measures it took to improve the resilience of it 178,000-apartment portfolio of public housing in the wake of significant damage from Hurricane Sandy. Joy Sinderband, NYCHA’s VP of Recovery and Resilience, said protecting people and property should be a priority of all stakeholders in the built environment.

    Creating healthy communities, spaces and developments.

    Whilst community interest in health and wellbeing is not necessarily new concept (think famers markets, community gardens locally grown farm-to-plate initiatives, subscription based food services etc.) a renewed focus on food, is providing a rich arena for innovation in property development in the United States.

    Developers are embracing the provision of new food-focussed ‘agrohoods’ that translate into enhancements to the health, wellbeing, environmental sustainability, social equity and food security of both their developments and the stakeholders who engage with them.

    Programs such Farmscape, are installing urban farms across the rooftops of numerous urban educational, residential and commercial buildings across the United States in an effort to not only support community interaction, but create employment opportunities, educate residents and provide direct access to fresh produce grown within their own neighbourhood.

    Conversely, local Dallas projects such as The Trailhead within the Edwards Ranch community, provide residents with a central hub for fitness, outdoor leisure and community gathering whilst the new 800-acre, Panther Island project in Fort Worth exemplify a new holistic approach to creating healthy communities beyond just nutrition. The Panther Island project for example, is being designed around a central 13-hectare lake that will act as a town centre, a network of boardwalks that will provide recreation and fitness amenity for the entire community and central cultural destination for festivals and events.

    Words courtesy of Andrew Coward. 

    About the ULI
    The ULI is a membership-based non-profit research and education organisation, representing the entire spectrum of land use and real estate development disciplines. Established in 1936, the Institute now represents almost 40,000 members internationally and operates in over 20 countries across North America, Europe and Australasia.

    Across Asia Pacific and Japan, the Institute has more than 1,800 members. In Australia, the Institute hosts regular study tours, industry competitions and events as well as a vibrant Young Leader’s Group across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

    Australian Corporate members include Mirvac, AMP, Sheargold Property, Urbis, Investa, NH Architecture, PWC, Lendlease and Stockland. If you’re interested in becoming a member, please visit for more details.

    Upcoming ULI Summits

    The ULI will host the next North American Summit in May 2017 in booming Seattle, Washington and an Asia Pacific Summit in Singapore in June 2017.  A number of Australian delegates will be attending a study tour prior to the Asia Pacific Summit. More detail will be published closer to the date.


    Andrew Coward is an urban strategist and communications consultant. Through his company, Polymer Studios, Andrew works with a wide range of stakeholders in the built environment, providing strategic planning, communications and research services that help shape the evolution of cities across Australia.

    Andrew is an associate member of the ULI and a member of its Young Leaders Group in Sydney.

    Follow Andrew on Twitter.


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