Molly Cummings’s 2017 ULI Fall Meeting Blog

 In All News, Program Reflections

Having just returned from the ULI Fall Conference in L.A., I am grateful to the Rose Center for Public Leadership for the scholarship which I received, allowing me to attend this important, informative conference. As Mayor of Hopkins, MN, a small suburb of Minneapolis, I was able to get a much broader perspective on so many of the important issues that are facing not just Hopkins, but the entire country, and gain new insight on various strategies communities are implementing to address them.

An issue that we all face, especially as the economy rises, is the loss or lack of affordable housing. One’s home is the basis for stability and success in most every other aspect of life, consequently, the lack of a stable home spills over with huge consequences, on many levels, to families. There were a number of sessions that dealt directly these issues including Equity and Inclusion: Creating Conditions that Benefit Everyone, Building Equitable Cities.

One of my city’s greatest strengths is its diversity, both culturally and economically. We are engaged in constant research and discussions with staff and with our surrounding communities, as to how we can best respond to our growing population and the changing demographics, examining both the benefits and the challenges that we are in the midst of. The New Face of Multifamily Housing: From Micro to Macro and Everything in Between, offered insight into a number of alternative forms of housing that are being implemented across the country. As an old city we have a number of historic structures that we are looking at hopefully saving and repurposing. The session on Equity and Inclusion: Creating Conditions That Benefit Everyone, offered an interesting perspective from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, on possible conversion to housing, office, shared-maker space and other options.

While much of my time was focused on housing and equitability issues, I also found the transportation issues of great value. Ride Sharing and Driverless Cars Are Game-Changers for Real Estate and Cities was a terrific discussion on how much and how fast the transportation and transit issues are changing and various alternatives to be considering as we look to the future on land use issues. Ride sharing and driverless cars are having a profound impact on planning. It is difficult to look out 20, 30, even 40 years and anticipate what we need to do today to plan. Again, the speed with which transportation changes will impact cities must be considered today. As car ownership drops, how can parking garages be repurposed into office or retail space, or distribution centers for e-commerce companies? What impact do electric vehicles which are becoming more and more popular have on cities? How/where/when do we incorporate charging stations into our cities? While there are many practical and ethical decisions to be addressed with autonomous vehicles, cities need to consider that they are coming and have their potential implications in mind today while planning for tomorrow.

The thoughtful discussions from Richard Florida and George Will gave me an opportunity to think about many of the challenges our country faces as the chasm grows between the haves and the have-nots, the cost of medical care for our growing elderly population, the over-dependence on the government for many programs, and the entrenched special interests of some politicians. While these talks sounded warnings, both offered practical suggestions as to what should (must?) be considered to address these major issues impacting every city, hence, every individual.

I get as much out of the networking opportunities and appreciated the many ways to meet and connect with others throughout the conference. I wouldn’t hesitate to be in touch with new colleagues and will look forward to connecting with them in the future.

The experts and resources offered at the ULI Fall Conference were outstanding and gave me the opportunity to hear from more than city staff, state perspectives and even regional voices, to understand ideas and programs from a broader national perspective. I am active throughout the state and the insight and expertise that I gained will give me a stronger voice as we work toward a stronger Minnesota.

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