Making City Building Work

This course will provide students with an in-depth understanding of how big city planning and large-scale urban transformation works on the ground from a practitioner perspective.  

The course is being taught by leading urban development practitioner and DUSP graduate Andy Altman who, as CEO of the London Olympic Development Corporation, led the regeneration of the 600-acre London Olympic Park, the largest redevelopment project in the UK and widely considered one of the most successful examples of Olympics and mega-event led urban regeneration. His career included serving in a wide range of roles in city planning and public and private development including as the Planning Director of Washington D.C. where he led the redevelopment of the Anacostia Waterfront, as the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Planning for the city of Philadelphia and currently as a private real estate developer in Washington DC where he is developing over 2 million square feet of mixed-use projects.

The over-arching theme of the course will be to understand from a practitioner perspective the intersecting and often contentious dynamics--economic, physical, social, political, and financial--of how cities are built at multiple scales, from planning for an entire city to the development of an individual building.

This course is unique in not only bringing a practitioner lens to major urban planning and development issues but in presenting, from the varied positions the lecturer has held, how the often competing perspectives of planner and implementor, public and private sector, politics and capital, developer and community are negotiated to produce urban transformation. 

The topics this course will focus on include: How is a vision for urban change generated and how are multiple and often conflicting visions reconciled to create a clear direction? How are visionary and progressive plans designed that compel action and cataylze change? How are planning ideas and political realities negotiated to create successful outcomes, and for whom? What types of institutions and structures are effective in fostering democratic participation in city planning and the long-term realization of plans? How are large scale interventions structured to attract capital and survive economically and politically over longer time horizons? What are the design, financial, community and political considerations necessary to successfully conceptualize and execute projects at all levels?

While the course is not intended to provide in-depth quantitative and qualitative skills, it will cover the range of practices and techniques that planners and public and private developers use to effectuate change, such as: using land to achieve social goals and equitable outcomes; joint venture structures; understanding how to construct plans that will be implemented; the opportunities and limitations of planning powers; defining public vs. private roles in delivering urban projects; balancing larger citywide goals with neighborhood concerns regarding growth and gentrification; catalyzing change in weaker markets; the role of anchor institutions as partners in urban development; analyzing the assets, opportunities and constraints of potential plans and projects; organizational models to plan, lead and deliver urban projects.

In the spirit of city planning classics focused on practice such as Alan Jacobs “Making City Planning Work” and Don Schon’s “The Reflective Practitioner,” this course will use case studies from the lecturer’s experience as well as case studies from other big cities such as New York City, Toronto, and Los Angeles as the basis for understanding the relationship of city planning theories and ideas to the complex forces shaping cities and how cities are built; importantly, the course will share how the perspective, analytical framework and skills of a city planner can be used in multiple roles and applied to a continuum of scales to shape cities.