In late October, ULI Ireland launched the UrbanPlan educational initiative in secondary schools and colleges across the country with the generous support of Arup. UrbanPlan teaches young people about the urban environment through a series of interactive workshops and team work challenges. The workshops aim to bring the built environment to life by challenging students to plan the regeneration of a blighted site in a hypothetical town. At the end of the programme, students present their development proposals to a team of expert volunteers, who choose a winner.
ULI members and land use professionals participated in a one-day training workshop at Arup’s Dublin offices to learn how to interact with the student teams by providing expert guidance and challenging students’ visions for redevelopment. Over the course of the week, 20 ULI members volunteered their time in five UrbanPlan workshops in Dublin, Stillorgan, Bray, Galway and Cork.
At St. Joseph’s Secondary School in the town of Rush in County Dublin, a student team called “Regeneration Nation” won the development competition with a plan that provided 35% affordable housing, meeting the minimum requirement, plus a balanced mix of mid-and-luxury-priced housing with more than two-thirds of the housing priced so residents could afford to support the local retail businesses proposed in their plan. Focusing on safety, access to nearby transit and walkability with green space in each city block were priorities outlined in the team’s plan. In addition, the students emphasised maintaining the culture of existing historic structures to support the residents’ desire to keep them and updated the three-block plan with the design of modern new buildings.
At the end of the UrbanPlan workshop, Ms. Patricia Hayden, principal of St. Joseph’s, addressed the students: “It was great to be in the room with you and see you learning,” she said. “We need to be interested in our own surroundings and this is a great exercise to teach you about the process of how our community is planned and developed.”
Breandán Mac Róibín, a teacher in Coláiste Eoin, described UrbanPlan as one of the best events in his 18 years of teaching. “[UrbanPlan is] a really wonderful and enlightening experience; feedback from the students has been extremely positive,” he said.
Since its inception in the U.S. over ten years ago, UrbanPlan has reached more than 27,000 students. Over time, the programme has been adapted to fit in various schools and universities, while still maintaining the integrity of the initial intent of the program to not only teach about the complex process of community development but also to introduce students to the various career fields in the land use industry. In 2014, ULI UK brought the programme to the United Kingdom and—with the assistance of EdComs—adapted it to the UK curriculum. By 2017, ULI aims to deliver the programme to at least 40 schools and 1,200 pupils per year. In addition to this week’s roll-out in Ireland, UrbanPlan will be launched in Germany in December.