This summer marks my mid-term as Chair of ULI Toronto, and I am proud to be able to look back on amazing year. After a period of growth, that saw us double our membership (now over 1500), the past year was focused on program expansion and community impact.
The broadening of our programming reflects a commitment to offering our membership a wide range of thought leadership, networking and educational experiences, as well as opportunities to give back to our local communities.
Highlights this year included: Annual Trends in Real Estate, the ever-shifting government land-use legislation & by-law (and the debates that they trigger), regional development opportunities, new technologies, design excellence, career advancement, and on-the-ground insights of many of our region’s amazing real estate stories. The year also reflected our Electric Cities commitment to expand our audience beyond our professional membership.
I am also very proud to see two major new programs launch this year. UrbanPlan, a high-school focused, realistic, engaging, and academically demanding classroom-based curriculum in which students learn about the fundamental forces that affect development in Canada. After a successful pilot initiative of this internationally acclaimed Urban Land Institute program (including the training of ULI members who are essential to its implementation), UrbanPlan will enter the classrooms of several TDSB schools this fall.
Our second big launch was the Urban Leadership Program, the immersion of 30 mid-career professionals in an 8-day program (November to June) focused on the real estate and land use industry challenges and opportunities of developing the Greater Toronto Area. Led by former Toronto Chief Planner, Paul Bedford, the program presented an amazing array of city-building leaders to the program’s participants to provide them with the broad range of contextual issues involved in complex urban development sites. Two sites in the strategically significant urban precinct around Bloor and Dundas were subject to the urban visioning of four multi-disciplinary teams. The results were bold and inspirational, and speak to our global mandate to advance the responsible use of land.
Our two major member initiatives, the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) and ULI Connect (Young Leaders Group) were also very productive over the past 12 months. WLI presented two very career relevant programs, Women on Boards, aimed at opening opportunities for service on corporate and public sector boards. Another program explored the threat to an essential piece to our urban fabric: social purpose real estate. And this year, WLI Toronto’s invaluable resource publication, Champions in the Spotlight, went online with its own dedicated website: wlichampions.org.
ULI Connect generated a flurry of SOLD OUT programs and tours to allow our members to explore and experience the greatness of our city-region, by foot, bike, bus… and virtual reality. Last summer’s Summer Social was a smash success, our first in a new venue – only to be beat by tomorrrow’s SOLD OUT Summer Social that you will not want to miss. Another signature program was the annual City Exchange, which this year explored the amazing comeback story of Pittsburgh.
A significant highlight of the year, of course, was our major Symposium that treated over 600 attendees (including over 100 members of the public) to over 120 speakers across 2-days of programming. Focused on the three lenses of Mobility, Technology and Placemaking, session after session offered leading edge insights into a full spectrum of city building topics. Our Virtual and Augmented Reality showcase offered many attendees their first glimpse of these technologies intersecting with our industry. Other highlights included Richard Florida in conversation with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor Tory’s kick-off of the international panel on major public realm projects that inform our consideration of a Rail Deck Park in the city core.
Our third annual Meet the Chiefs gala dinner leveraged our symposium’s energy and delivered a SOLD-OUT audience an amazing evening of celebration of our regional public sector’s planning leadership, and featured acclaimed international urbanist, Dr. Maarten Hajer (Urban Futures, Utrecht University, Netherlands). Also part of the symposium was a free public lecture featuring New York City architect, Elizabeth Diller (Diller Scofidio + Renfro). Collectively, almost 2,000 people registered for our two-day urban extravaganza!
Very importantly, our past year moved forward our commitment to engaging the ULI mission “to advance the responsible use of land” with members of our community who are not real estate and development professionals. We accomplished this by presenting (for the first time) free public events, extending complimentary registrations to community leaders, and engaging directly with local communities to imagine exciting new visions of urban transformation. It is a recognition that progressive city and region building requires stronger collaboration and alignment with the members and leaders of civil society.
These are just some of the activities that made our 2016/2017 season such a success. Incredibly, in the past year we delivered more than 50 programs in total – double the previous year! Looking ahead, expect more great programming, educational offerings, and community impact oriented initiatives.
I want to thank our volunteers and our sponsors who stand with us to deliver so much. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I look forward to another great year for ULI Toronto.