In 2007, there was no Huntington Park in the Arena District, no Bridge Park in Dublin and no 21-story James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at Ohio State University. There also was no ULI Columbus.
Just as central Ohio has grown and evolved over the past decade, so too has ULI Columbus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting quality of life and prosperity through responsible land use practices.
Members of ULI Columbus gathered recently to celebrate the District Council’s 10-year anniversary, reflecting on successes and looking ahead to many more to come.
What started from scratch in 2007—and which took well into 2008 to formally launch—has grown into a diverse community of 320 members representing a wide array of career and backgrounds. A decade ago, the founding members were simply learning about the global Urban Land Institute, established in 1936, and curious about what it could do for central Ohio.
“We started very small,” says architect Jonathan Barnes, who served as Chair in 2010 and recalls being at the very first meeting in Don Casto’s office downtown. “It sort of took off from there. We’ve come a long way.”
Founding Chair Manny Steiner recalls feeling hopeful and inspired by ULI’s mission and what it could bring to Columbus.
“I had graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Real Estate MBA and I felt there were some great professional resources in Cincinnati that we did not have in Columbus,” Steiner says. “There were some governmental organizations like MORPC, but no voice from the land-use community, and yet we had such a great academic institution in The Ohio State University, a multitude of incredibly talented developers, architects, planners, and builders. I felt we needed to bring these people together so that what makes Columbus so strong and vibrant as a city could be applied to the built environment.”
In the time since, ULI Columbus has become one of the more well known District Councils and, locally, has become instrumental in how the real estate community and the general public are exposed to trends and best practices.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from seeing the city grow and we’ve been able to react and change how we do things to meet the needs of the city from time to time,” Barnes said in a recent conversation reflecting on a decade with the District Council.
In the decade since forming, ULI Columbus has established a variety of committees, put on hundreds of events and worked alongside communities and elected officials to improve the region. The organization has hosted design competitions and conducted critical research—particularly with the Columbus 2050 and Insight 2050 analyses—and members have spent more than 10,000 hours volunteering, including more than 1,900 hours mentoring students.
See the timeline below for highlights from over 10 years of impact.
“We went from ensuring internal viability and engagement with membership to an external agent of change,” Steiner says. “I give tremendous credit to the Chairs, volunteers, members, and donors who helped make this happen over the course of the decade—I am very proud of the little seed we planted years ago.”
Autumn Glover, who serves as the Women’s Leadership Initiative Co-chair for ULI Columbus, recognizes the growing diversity of people involved in making central Ohio a better place.
“It has been an absolute joy to be a part of ULI,” said Glover, speaking to members at the 10th anniversary celebration at Juniper. “That experience has led me to encourage others to join ULI, and I hope as we look forward to the next 10 that you will do the same.”
As central Ohio continues to grow and evolve over the decade to come, ULI Columbus will be there as an influential, helpful and inclusive force helping to shape the region’s future.