Chairman’s Message at the 2013 Spring Meeting

The following is a transcript of ULI Foundation Chairman Jim Curtis’s remarks at the 2013 Spring Meeting in San Diego, California.

I am going to do some old-fashioned storytelling.

Please give me the latitude to share four stories with you. The purpose of the storytelling is to share with you the power of collective philanthropy and to scratch the surface on how the members’ social investment in ULI through ULIF is making a difference.

Our business is a people business. Nothing is more important than how people feel about their communities and themselves. While what they want, what they need, and what they expect change with each generation, what does not change is the basic desire for a better quality of life.

This presents an extraordinary opportunity for all of us. Because we shape people’s lives. Because we shape places. Because we shape environments.

This power to inspire is what drives ULI members to participate in and support ULI.

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The Institute’s work is noble.

It is profound.

It is transformative.

ULI’s legacy is making a better world for current generations and, more importantly, for those who come after us. With our enormous human capital and extensive volunteer network, our Institute is uniquely positioned to make a lasting impact on what matters most—and that is the human condition.

What ULI holds up as visionary, as exemplary, is work rooted in a commitment to change people’s lives. We demonstrate this each year with the J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. It is ULI’s and the land use industry’s highest honor, and it is all about recognizing those who are making the world a better place.

Among the extraordinary people who are laureates is Richard Baron, cofounder of McCormack Baron Salazar in St. Louis. His company has built some of the most successful affordable and mixed-income housing developments in the United States. At the time he received the award, I was inspired when he stated: “What sustains me are the stories of families whose lives have been turned around, the stories of children who are in a better place … The pleasure I get out of this comes from making a difference in people’s lives.”

This story and the many other stories surrounding our various activities exemplify why our work matters. It’s a statement about making an impact on the human condition; it’s a statement about transforming lives; and it’s a statement about the philanthropic aspect of ULI and ULI members.

Starting this fall, we will have new opportunities to strengthen our impact with a ULI initiative related to building healthy places. This effort will highlight the role of design and development in improving the health of people and communities. This initiative has great potential, in terms of new partnerships with educators and the health community. Our goal is to help members, industry, and communities to shape places and policies in ways that promote human health and improve the human condition. We will accomplish this goal by creating new resources and advancing the understanding of connections between health and the built environment.

I am pleased to share with you that the Todd family has committed to playing a supporting role in this new effort. ULI Foundation Governor Jim Todd and his wife, Sharon, have made a generous contribution to support the publication of a new ULI booklet, Ten Principles of Healthy Communities, which will be ready by the Fall Meeting.

This initiative will create new opportunities for ULI members and ULI to move the needle in new ways. This publication will leverage member volunteerism. It will leverage advisory panel work in this area. Sharon and Jim believe the multiplier effect on civic, business, and real estate leaders will inspire those leaders to innovate as a result of this social investment in the future.

Every piece of ULI’s work funded by the Foundation—every activity, every publication—is a tool. A tool to spur action. A tool to catalyze change. The activities, the books, the programs are not what builds a better world.

It’s what happens afterward.

How members and nonmembers—through choices, actions, and volunteerism—make the ideas and bold visions into reality. This underscores the multiplier effect and how we leverage our collaborative philanthropic social investments.

My second story is about the Institute’s leveraging ability through the ULI Greenprint Center, which started out in 2009 as the Greenprint Foundation. It was founded by ULI member Ron Weidner and a small group of peers who were dedicated to cutting energy use and carbon emissions from properties in their portfolios. They committed to lead by example, and it has worked.

Over the past three years, the number of Greenprint member companies has nearly doubled, from 15 to 29. The number of properties in Greenprint’s database has increased from 600 to more than 2,700.

The Greenprint Foundation became part of ULI last year; it’s now the Greenprint Center. Last year, Greenprint members reduced their carbon emissions by 8 percent and their energy use by 5 percent. That’s the equivalent of planting nearly 12 million trees. Or taking nearly 90,000 cars off the road. That’s making a better world!

My third story is about transforming the educational process and the aspirations of young people. Another extraordinary laureate of the ULI Nichols Prize for Visionaries is Gerry Hines, who took his prize money and seeded the ULI Hines Student Urban Design Competition.

This year, more than 790 students from 70 universities in North America competed to redevelop a downtown site in Minneapolis. The winner was a joint team from Kansas State University, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and the University of Kansas. The members received $50,000 as the top prize, but perhaps the most valuable takeaway was learning how to collaborate as a multidisciplinary team. That’s how to succeed in land use today.

Thanks to Gerry Hines’s vision and generosity, as well as the volunteerism of ULI members, and the leadership of Gayle Berens at ULI, nearly 5,500 graduate students on 1,100 teams from 427 universities have participated over the course of 11 years, and they are starting their careers more enlightened about how to shape better choices and outcomes on projects, neighborhoods, communities, and regions in a global context.

That is precisely what Gerry wanted to impress upon students when he created this competition in 2002. This is also a great story of how Gerry’s idea and bold vision were turned into a reality through strategically partnering with ULI members and the Urban Land Institute.

My last story can be found in district council programs funded with Urban Innovation Grants. During fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the Foundation awarded 45 grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for a total of $750,000. These grants catalyzed 277 partnerships, $1.7 million in matching funds from the partners, and $2.7 million worth of time from the volunteers. That’s $750,000 leveraged into $5 million of assets and a 6-plus multiple on $750,000.

In 2014, we will award an additional $250,000 in grants to keep the momentum going. This will be $1 million in three years for Urban Innovation Grants. That’s impact. That’s progress.

That is ULI.

That is ULI member volunteerism.

That is the ULI Foundation at work.

The purpose of today’s storytelling is to share some of the outcomes of our collective philanthropic efforts. The purpose of today’s storytelling is to underscore the philanthropic aspect of ULI as just as or more important through time as the networking business aspect of ULI convenings. The purpose of today’s storytelling is to underscore the leverage and multiplier effect on your investment in the Annual Fund and the Foundation.

Hopefully, today’s storytelling will also inspire you to share with your families, friends, and business associates why our collective efforts are great examples of outcome-oriented philanthropy and how ULI members and ULI are making a better world.

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