Alan Razak, principal and co-founder of Philadelphia-based AR Spruce, a woman-owned minority real estate development and services company, and current Governance Chair of ULI Philadelphia, has provided a sustaining gift to ULI Philadelphia to continue its local UrbanPlan program.
UrbanPlan is a realistic exercise in which participants—high school students, university students, community leaders, and public officials—learn the fundamental forces that affect development in urban communities. In addition to experiencing comradery and skill-building, participants experience challenging issues, private and public sector roles, complex trade-offs, and fundamental economics in play when proposing realistic land use solutions to development challenges.
UrbanPlan is a globally used ULI curriculum, taught to over 60,000 students and 180+ jurisdictions nationally across 32 different markets. From critical thinking to industry vocabulary, this experiential learning opportunity enhances understanding of the land use profession and develops important skills that prime prospective professionals for success in the field.
Razak’s background in commercial real estate encompasses development and project management, finance, architecture, and feasibility/planning analyses. A ULI member for nearly 20 years, Mr. Razak continues to give back through his involvement. He is a leader in the push ULI has undertaken to become more diverse and inclusive in its membership and to take a leadership role in guiding the real estate industry to the same goal. He also serves as a ULI Global Governing Trustee and member of the national Responsible Property Investment Council. He has spent many years as an author and teacher of the ULI Learning professional education workshops, in addition to his role as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Weitzman School of Design.
Razak donated as a philanthropic partner to the program by contributing through the ULI Foundation. This new pathway provides benefits for both donors and the District Council. “By donating through the foundation, donors receive benefits from giving to a charitable institution and the District Council can still use the money exactly as intended,” said Janice P. Periquet, ULI Foundation President.
ULI Philadelphia first piloted UrbanPlan in Fall 2019 to 18 graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, training a cohort of 25 ULI member volunteers to help facilitate the program. After a successful launch and pivot to a virtual delivery in response to COVID-19, the program was then piloted to 21 community leaders in January 2021, which included Citizen’s Planning Institute graduates and Registered Community Organization board members. The initial response and feedback were extremely positive and resulted in a second workshop hosted in October 2021. With sustained interest and demand, the program will continue to run on an annual basis. The program has since expanded to include the high school and public official’s models. In July 2021, it was delivered virtually to City Council senior staff and later in December 2021, delivered in person to high school seniors at Girard College, a high-school specifically supporting students from single-parent households.
Philanthropic gifts such as Razak’s allow the program to operate, scale up and establish a reputation within the City and region. ULI Philadelphia aims to continue operating all four models and build new partnerships, particularly within high schools.
“UrbanPlan is a great program for all participants. For students it exposes young, diverse populations early to the various careers in the real estate industry and creates a pipeline of future practitioners. At the community level, it empowers residents and public officials through education and creates more effective and informed participants in civic society. For volunteers, it brings great satisfaction to be of service and for developers a forum for conversation about their work. It is a great asset to have in Philadelphia.” – Eleanor Sharpe, AICP, LEED-AP Executive Director and Co-Chair, UrbanPlan Committee
The program would also not be possible without the member support of Philadelphia’s UrbanPlan Committee led by Eleanor Sharpe and Tiffany Thurman, Vice President Government and Community Affairs at Greater Philadelphia YMCA.
Your donations make a difference! See some UrbanPlan graduates’ endorsements of the program below.
UrbanPlan Testimonials from High School Seniors at Girard College
“UrbanPlan was a project I will never forget. It was something new for me. It really challenged me and I haven’t really been challenged on an assignment in a long time. It really made me have to prioritize time management and try to work under pressure. I also had to learn how to not be in control of everything, something I’m not used to.” – Aaliyah
“I can honestly say that I learned a lot during this simulation. I learned how to work under pressure, work as a team, and I also learned about neighborhoods and the inner workings of developers. It was a good time to practice my time management skills as well because that’s what you’re going to need in the real world. This program should definitely be repeated next year because I think everybody should get the chance to be apart of something like this.” – Faith