The following is a recap of the 2019 ULI Fall Meeting written by Charles Drayton, Planner for the City of North Charleston and the recipient of ULI SC’s Fall Meeting Scholarship. Charles is an active member of ULI, serving on the Coastal Executive Committee, UrbanPlan Committee and as an UrbanPlan volunteer.
Direct Flights, Micro-Mobility, Cool Places, and Quality Content…did I mention Great People? Wow! Put all of these ingredients into a pot and let it simmer…what I got was a fantastic conference loaded with ideas and sharing within the backdrop of Washington, DC, one of the most vibrant and diverse places I have ever visited.
Stepping off the plane with my wife, our youngest son of three in tow, we began a journey of culture, history, and modernity. From the plane to the train and on to an electric-powered scooter all within an hour, I could tell this was not the DC I had visited as a youth! Sure, the icons that we all know were there on display, but there was something different… In the midst of all of the poiliticos and tourists, there was a real sense of something driving this city forward – commerce and development have stormed into the metro area and are pushing DC to new heights both literally and figuratively.
The opening night of the conference was marked by a soiree on the district pier, a place that 10 years ago had been forgotten docks and warehouses along the river where a 10+ lane highway sped through, dividing the waterfront from the City. The highway has since been cut in half, there is a two-way, protected bike lane, the single-story warehouse-type buildings that lined the waterfront have been torn down and replaced by 10-15 story high rises with apartments and offices, and there is a large pedestrian mall with water features leading to and along the waterfront. And this sort of change could be seen around many corners as I explored DC.
Back at the meeting I found more evidence of these capital flows for development. There was the discussion with Amazon Director of Development, Holly Sullivan, who talked about the confluence of factors that lead to Amazon’s choice of Crystal City across the Potomac River from DC for its second HQ, chiefly young talent and attractors for young talent. “Emerging Trends” explored the right amenities for building this attraction, taking it out of the downtown cores, and the creation of “Hipsturbia”. This theme of the importance of amenity-driven, quality places for people attracting intellectual capital was prevalent throughout the meeting events, and DC served as a perfect setting and prime example.