ULI District Councils in the Great Lakes Region convened in Chicago on September 3-4, 2014 to start a joint regional effort to protect and leverage one of our greatest shared assets – the Great Lakes. ULI Toronto, ULI Minnesota, ULI Michigan, ULI Indiana, and ULI Chicago participated in this regional meeting.
The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River basin, extending from Duluth in Minnesota to Quebec in Canada, contain 84% of North America’s fresh water, only 1% of which is renewable. This significant natural resource remains very vulnerable to the adverse effects of increasing urbanization, harmful agricultural and industrial practices, and climate change. While many political and civic leaders, and environmental groups recognize that the health of the Great Lakes is central to our region’s vitality, the vastness of the region and the multiple jurisdictions spread across two countries, has made it very difficult to bring everyone together and coordinate efforts.
SOM, under the leadership of ULI member, Phil Enquist, who heads the firm’s global city design practice, started a pro-bono effort in 2010 to create a 100-year vision for the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River Region. A central theme of the vision is to adopt best practices to build a healthy ecosystem that can support healthy, strong economies across the region. The Urban Land Institute, with active district councils throughout the Great Lakes region, is uniquely positioned to partner with SOM to spread awareness and facilitate regional collaboration to protect the Great Lakes and thereby enhance the region’s economic competitiveness and quality of life.
The District Councils will jointly seek funding opportunities to continue the work started during this regional meeting. First steps will involve information gathering on existing Great Lakes conservation efforts, identifying additional partners besides SOM, and defining ULI’s role in advancing these efforts to the next level – positively impacting policy and development patterns.