In an effort to strengthen land use decision making among local government leaders and to foster regional solutions to land use challenges, ULI Washington has launched the Regional Fellows program, modeled after the Daniel Rose Fellowship, a program of the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use, which is jointly operated by ULI and the National League of Cities.
ULI Washington has selected three jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region to participate in the pilot year of the program—Montgomery County, Maryland; Fairfax County, Virginia; and the city of Alexandria, Virginia. Four fellows and a program coordinator from each jurisdiction will participate in the yearlong program, which will kick off with an all-day meeting February 2 at ULI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Each fellowship team is composed of an honorary fellow—an elected or appointed chief executive who will serve as the symbolic head of each team; three senior leaders in planning, economic development, or transportation, who will be actively engaged in the program; and a program coordinator—a midlevel career official who will support the fellows and manage their work.
“I’m thrilled that Montgomery County has been included in the inaugural class of ULI Washington’s Regional Fellows program,” says Isiah Leggett, county executive. “Providing healthy, safe, sustainable, and inclusive communities is part of the county’s mission statement. Through this partnership, we can continue to work with and learn from industry experts as well as exchange best practices with our neighboring jurisdictions so that our communities and region continue to thrive.”
The Regional Fellows program is the brainchild of several ULI Washington members, including Anthony Chang, vice president, asset management, at Washington Real Estate Investment Trust; Evan Goldman, vice president for land acquisition and development at EYA; and John Coe, principal of Coe Enterprises, all of whom participated in a local council focused on regionalism. They worked closely with Lisa Rother, ULI Washington executive director, and Deborah Kerson Bilek, ULI Washington senior director of community outreach, as well as Jess Zimbabwe, executive director of the Rose Center, and Gideon Berger, Rose Center program director, to bring the program to fruition.
“The ULI Washington Regional Fellows program has great potential for local jurisdictions to achieve benefits similar to those gained by cities that participate in the Rose Fellowship, such as greater public/private sector collaboration, enhanced decision making by elected officials and their staff, and local land use policies that are practical, sustainable, and informed by market realities and private sector expertise,” Zimbabwe says. “This program has the added advantage of fostering relationships between senior-level leaders in neighboring jurisdictions who likely need to be communicating regularly anyway to ensure that not only their city or county can succeed, but that the entire region remains competitive.”
With a population of 6 million people, metro Washington is uniquely suited to benefit from such a program. The region is composed of 22 individual jurisdictions in two states and the District of Columbia. Although each jurisdiction has its own political leadership, policies, and market realities, the boundaries between them are fluid, with people, goods, and services crisscrossing them daily. Montgomery County and Fairfax County each have a population of more than 1 million, and the challenges each faces—ranging from housing, traffic, and mobility to competitiveness/job growth and natural resource management—are multilayered and complex.
“We’re an amazing region—a sought-after location from a jobs, demographics, and quality of life perspective,” Goldman says. “There are very few places that are blessed with what we have. But with that comes significant challenges.”
The Regional Fellows program is intended to create an open atmosphere of learning, trust, and honest exchange as each team receives guidance on a specific land use challenge and gets the opportunity to offer feedback and advice to peers and build relationships that continue long after the fellowship period concludes later this year.
Once each ULI Washington fellowship team has identified its land use challenge at the February 2 kickoff, a ULI Technical Assistance Program (TAP) panel will be assigned to work closely with the fellows, participate in a study tour of the jurisdiction, interview stakeholders, and put forward a set of recommendations at the panel’s conclusion. Each panel will consist of ten to 12 professionals—four members of the peer fellowship teams, two outside subject-matter experts who will act as panel cochairs, and ULI Washington members who have expertise in the land use challenge each panel is working to address.
“This program aims to deliver a meaningful experience to our fellows by integrating two signature ULI programs that have helped a variety of communities break through gridlock and create positive change in their communities—the Rose Center at the national level and the Technical Assistance Program at the local level,” says Bilek.
Regional fellows will also have the opportunity to interact with Rose Center faculty during a site visit and study tour of Washington, D.C., one of four cities nationwide selected to participate in the 2017 Rose Fellowship. The study tour will take place during the last week of February, during which time the ULI Washington regional fellows will hear recommendations on Washington, D.C.’s land use challenge—focused on the redevelopment of a 183-acre (74 ha) former hospital site—in a presentation to Washington mayor Muriel Bowser, a 2017 Rose Fellow, and her senior staff.
“There are great opportunities for synergy between these two programs,” Bilek says. “Our fellows will be eager to learn the recommendations presented by the Rose Center faculty to Mayor Bowser and to understand the relevance these may have for their own jurisdictions.”
ULI Washington members and staff are eager to see the pilot year for the ULI Washington Regional Fellows program yield tangible outcomes for each fellowship team so that other jurisdictions in metro Washington will understand the value of participating in the program. With more than 2,200 members, ULI Washington already enjoys a reputation as an impartial convener of public and private sector expertise and a platform for sharing of best practices. One aim of the Regional Fellows program is to elevate the public sector’s understanding of the benefits of engaging with ULI.
“We want to make sure we’re delivering a lot of value so our fellowship teams can make a pointed justification to their taxpayers for why engaging in this program was worth their time,” Chang says. “The goal right now is help all three teams select a challenge that is a priority in their jurisdiction on which they can move the needle as a result of this fellowship. Our hope is that the expertise and knowledge sharing that results from the TAP, retreat, and other points of engagement will act as a force multiplier in tackling each jurisdiction’s specific problem.”
Learn more about the ULI Washington Regional Fellows program at washington.uli.org.