John Hersey’s 2018 ULI Fall Meeting Blog

 In All News, Program Reflections

I am very fortunate to have attended the 2018 ULI Fall Meeting in my hometown hub of Boston, MA. The conference agenda was packed with familiar case studies from New England and thought-provoking insights from around the country as well as more intimate events between sessions that helped to connect a smaller audience to leading practitioners, and I particularly benefitted from networking with prior Rose Scholars and Fellows.

Boston serves as a terrific urban laboratory for comparable cities with a blend of educational institutions and medical centers mixed with local politics and deep roots. Attending my first Fall Meeting, where I expected much of the conversation would revolve around the local market, it helped to visit a familiar city and know a few of the speakers on the conference schedule. For my out-of-town peers, I enjoyed translating not only the accent but also the reflexive impulse to reference the success of the local sports teams, seemingly with little relevance to the development-related topic at hand. Boston is truly a unique brand, but the standing-room only crowds in many of the session (like at Fenway) prove that there’s much to learn from it.

The smaller inter-session events provided a pleasant relief from the larger sessions, and ULI did well to program many of those events as either a prelude or follow-up to a session presentation. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more from the event speakers on a smaller stage and hearing from audience members how they approach similar work in their communities. For example, MassDevelopment’s presentation on the role of public art in inspiring ownership and pride among residents and business owners was echoed by many planners, developers, and community stakeholders gathered around the intimate stage.

Finally, I can’t say enough about the enthusiasm among Rose Center Scholars and Fellows and ULI staff for sharing and learning from best practices and tailoring those lessons to a unique local context to improve their communities. Jess Zimbabwe and Gideon Berger lead the Rose Center by example, motivating partners to engage with and borrow from each other’s experiences. Their enthusiasm sets the tone for others to follow, and I look forward to continuing to connect with them.

Thank you, Rose Center, for inviting me to attend the 2018 ULI Fall Meeting and for promoting ULI’s excellent work to a new audience of public-sector leaders.

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