Chairman’s Message at the 2014 Spring Meeting

The following is a transcript of ULI Foundation Chairman Jim Curtis’s remarks at the 2014 Spring Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Over the past two years, the Foundation board and the ULI Georgetown teams have worked to build on Jim Klingbeil’s vision. Jim’s vision was for us to shift from a transaction-oriented to a relationship-driven philanthropic model so ULI could consistently be a best-of-class, outcome-oriented philanthropic enterprise.

We knew to achieve this objective we needed to improve transparency, accountability, communications, and stewardship. Two years ago the Foundation Board set three objectives:

  • First, we focused on humanizing the work of the Foundation and ULI, in terms of the real impact it makes on people’s lives.
  • Second, we focused on raising awareness of the role philanthropy plays in connecting ULI’s output to impact.
  • And third, we focused on improving ULI’s stewardship of your contributions of time and treasure, in terms of content, outputs, and outcomes.

We have made progress—yet, there is still much to be done. I am proud of how much we have achieved to collectively distinguish ULI as a philanthropic enterprise worthy of your families’ social investment allocation.

I believe in ULI. ULI’s impact is real; ULI’s impact is far reaching; and ULI’s impact is changing millions of lives around the world. As ULI members, every single one of us, working individually and collectively as an organization, has the ability to make a tangible, lasting difference in the quality of people’s day-to-day lives and their future.

ULI members are outcome oriented,and so is ULI. Our story is one of lasting, positive impact. It’s a story about the greater good. It’s a story that is told through the actions of members who are inspired by ULI to make a difference, to improve their communities with their work. Members who are doing well by doing good.

Here are a couple of examples:

ULI’s story is the story of Jeremy Hudson, CEO of the Specialized Real Estate Group in Fayetteville, Ark. Jeremy’s project, ECO Modern Flats, is profiled in a new ULI publication released this week called Building for Wellness: The Business Case. When his company started renovating an old garden-style complex in Fayetteville, Jeremy did not settle for an ordinary makeover. He suffered from asthma as a child, and he made it his mission to build apartments with the best ventilation systems, to use green materials that minimize the release of allergens, to enforce a strict no-smoking policy, and to incorporate a pedestrian-friendly design. This was a first for Fayetteville. Demand is so strong that there is a waiting list for units that are leasing for more than is typical for the community. Doing well by doing good. That’s impact.

This is a story about people living in a healthier environment, because a ULI member committed to make a difference.

ULI’s story is the story of Vicki Davis, president of Urban Atlantic in Bethesda, Md. Vicki’s company partnered with A&R Development in D.C. and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to develop Rhode Island Row in Washington—a Terwilliger Center award winner. It’s a mixed-income, workforce housing development built on what used to be a desolate parking lot serving a subway station. Among the residents are D.C. police officers, Metro workers and teachers—the type of moderate-income workers who are so often priced out of urban neighborhoods. This is impact. This is a story about people being able to live closer to where they work. It’s a story about lowering energy demand per capita, because a ULI member committed to make a difference.

These two projects reflect the very best of everyone in this room.

ULI’s story is a story of more than 30,000 members like Jeremy and Vicki. It’s a story of members who are giving back to their communities, their industry and their institute. Members who are doing well by doing good. It’s a story about people whose lives have been touched somehow, some way, by our work. A question each of us should ask ourselves is: What am I doing to change the world today?

By choosing to be part of ULI, each of us is embracing a cause that is noble, transformative and profound. Our cause is this: promoting responsible land use to help people achieve a higher quality of life and improve economic productivity. Many of you in this room have given your time, your money, or both, to help further this cause. It’s a cause that has guided every decision made by your Foundation board.

Giving to ULI is giving to an organization and a membership that is taking on the tough issues that affect people’s lives. Issues like:

  • How to provide a full spectrum of housing choices in every community.
  • How to build healthier communities.
  • How to lower energy demand per capita in every community.

These are the types of issues that shape the choices people make about where and how they live. They shape the choices that businesses, communities and regions make about where to invest and where to grow. ULI’s involvement in these issues guarantees that better choices will be made.

Better choices that ultimately make a better world and improve the human condition. Isn’t that what philanthropy is all about?

The impact of ULI members and ULI is why I have been proud to serve as your chair of the ULI Foundation. Thank you for your gifts of time, talent, networks and treasure.