Developers, Development, and Urban Life
Last night I attended an event entitled Developers, Development, and Urban Life hosted by the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, and Urban Land Institute, B.C. It was held at the stately Terminal City Club in downtown Vancouver.
The event featured an impressive panel of speakers who explored how developers and their choices define city life and the urban experience. The panel members addressed this topic from their respective positions of developer, economist, and architect.
This was definitely a developer friendly event. I was impressed, however, by the effort the panelists made to take a step back and view the larger role of developers as part of society. There was a range of thought-provoking views presented on the roles and responsibilities that developers have in contributing to and defining urban society and life. Better yet, the panelists were willing to—or at east attempt to—answer some provocative and pointed questions from the audience.
The Role of Developers in Society
The first speaker, was Mr. Jeremy Newsum. Mr. Newsum is Chairman of Urban Land Institute and Former CEO and current Executive Trustee of the U.K. based Grosvenor Estate. Grosvenor is, one of the oldest developers in the world, dating back to 1677. it has had an office in Vancouver since 1953.
During his presentation, Mr. Newsum presented a slide entitled “Developers in Society,” which contained the following table:
I found this table is an interesting juxtaposition of how developers see themselves versus how NIMBY‘s see them. It highlights some of the tensions within the urban development sector. It also brought into focus some of the gaps that need to close to generate cities that meet our social, economic, environmental demands—the triple bottom line of a sustainable future.
This means that we need to do a better job of breaking out of out silos and learning what makes each other tick. This includes understanding the hurdles that developers face, the constraints policy makers deal, and what neighbourhoods really value. It is only by meaningful dialogue between and amongst all parties—and ultimately through partnerships—that we will be able to create cities that everybody is proud to call home.