Gretchen Milliken’s 2016 ULI Fall Meeting Blog

 In All News, Program Reflections

I can sum up my experience at the ULI Fall Meeting in Dallas in one word – B I G! As a virgin to not only Dallas, but to the Lone Star State as well, I had a mixture of pre-conceived notions as to what Dallas, Texas had to offer. Through my involvement in the Rose Fellowship, involvement in our local District Council, ULI Kentucky and attendance of previous ULI Meetings, I am familiar with the ULI conference format and appreciate the high quality of content, speakers, networking and programming ULI offers. That said Dallas and the ULI Fall Meeting far exceeded my expectations.

As a scholarship recipient I was offered the opportunity to experience both UrbanPlan and a Product Council. Having never participated in either one, I decided to sign up for both and have undeniably, no regrets. UrbanPlan is a brilliant format. Originally designed for high school and college students, it combines the pedagogical with the practical and allows participants, in this case public officials, to engage in a “real life situation” exercise that stimulates constructive dialogue, debate, problem solving and teamwork among the participants. Its team building at its best, ingeniously assigning participants to new and unfamiliar roles in order to broaden their perspective and better understand the complexities involved in land-use development. To add to the experience, I was able to interact with fellow public officials from around the country and share the experiences and challenges in regards to our respective roles within government. My UrbanPlan experience was so powerful, I am looking into bringing it to Louisville in hopes that more in our community can benefit from this incredible experience.

Following my UrbanPlan experience, I embarked on a full day and a half of activities with the Urban Revitalization Council (URC). Starting at Klyde Warren Park, an impressive human scaled urban revitalization project that brings green space and vitality to the downtown while bridging divided neighborhoods. Next stop Perot Natural Science Museum, a somewhat disjointed, deconstructed structure that manages to hold its own amongst surface parking lots and oversized freeways defining the outskirts of downtown Dallas. Recent residential infill in the emerging Victory Park area is helping to bring density and urban form to this district with this landmark build as a catalyst. The design comes together in the interior creating a series dynamic hands-on exhibition spaces to explore the wonders of natural science. A presentation by the developers behind Victory Park with Q & As rounds off the afternoon with the group making plans for dinner and evening activities.

Early start day 2, with a bus ride to Trinity Grove a restaurant incubator on the other side of the “bridge to nowhere”. Nowhere turns out to be somewhere with a delicious, Texas-sized breakfast in one of the restaurants more and more locals are flocking to. An Interesting panel discussion with various food incubation case studies, one being designer chocolates with the opportunity to purchase before heading to Café Momentum for lunch. Chad Houser’s story about Café Momentum, a restaurant model which transforms young people’s lives by providing a positive environment in which at-risk youth who have spent time in juvenile facilities receive intensive culinary, job and life-skill training, as well as continued mentorship and support, enabling them to achieve their full potential, is so inspiring one can’t understand why it’s not being used throughout the country. And to choke us up further, Dr Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, moved and entertained us with the unique success story behind this revitalized HBCU. Just down the street from Momentum Café is the 1401 Elm Building, a 1960’s masterpiece that Merriman and the city fortunately see the value in restoring it to its former glory, adding residential and retail to the mixed of uses. Fabulous views of the city from the top floor concluded another fully engaging day of urban best practices.

So ‘BIG’, being Texas’ motto, most accurately describes my ULI scholarship experience. BIG experiences, BIG discussions, BIG ideas, BIG thinking, BIG takeaways. Thank you for this BIG opportunity, these experiences will enhance and inspire the work we are doing in Louisville!

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