ULI Northern New Jersey to bring simulated real estate program to East Orange High Schools in spring

Urban Land Institute Northern New Jersey and the East Orange School District on Wednesday said they are expanding the UrbanPlan program to East Orange High Schools this May.

Created by ULI, UrbanPlan offers students an opportunity to participate in a hands-on, simulated real estate planning program while working side-by-side with industry professionals.

Through the program, students learn about the fundamental forces that affect real estate development and how responsible development can shape, transform and ultimately improve communities. The class is also designed to teach collaboration, teamwork and presentation skills.

ULI NNJ introduced the UrbanPlan curriculum to East Brunswick High School in 2019 under the leadership of East Brunswick High School teacher Marc Mondry. Since its introduction, nearly 200 students have participated in the program at East Brunswick High School. Today, the program is overseen by East Brunswick High School’s Jonathan Pawlowski.

In 2024, Russo Development became the event sponsor of ULI NNJ’s East Brunswick program.

East Orange High School’s UrbanPlan program will be integrated as a 15-hour curriculum module into Joe Refinski and Desmond Soto-Schwartz’s Advanced Placement U.S. history and AP government classes. The curriculum will task teams of students with responding to a “request for proposals” for the redevelopment of a dilapidated neighborhood in a fictional community. Each team member will assume one of five roles: finance director, marketing director, city liaison, neighborhood liaison or site planner.

Through these roles, students will develop a comprehensive understanding of how various market forces (supply and demand, availability of capital, risk versus reward, etc.) clash and collaborate with nonmarket forces (regulation, politics, advocacy groups, etc.) to create the built environment. Using modeling Lego blocks representing differing asset classes of buildings and property usages, each team will reconcile the often-competing agendas to create a well-designed, market-responsive, financeable and buildable project. Following the creation of their plans, teams will be tasked with presenting and defending their proposals in front of a volunteer-based mock city council.

“Each day, our students are directly impacted by real estate investment happening within their communities,” Anita Champagne, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at East Orange School District, said. “We are excited to bring this one-of-a-kind program to our high schools that will allow our students to better understand how real estate affects their lives and the critical role they can play in shaping their communities.”

In addition to the leadership of local ULI chapters, the UrbanPlan curriculum relies heavily upon the assistance of dedicated volunteers from the real estate, legal and civics communities. East Orange High Schools’ UrbanPlan program will be supported by a group of dedicated volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds.

Mara Winokur, executive director of Urban Land Institute Northern New Jersey, explained: “UrbanPlan’s focus on responsible and community-oriented development exemplifies the mission of the Urban Land Institute. We look forward to building upon the success of our East Brunswick program as we welcome the students of East Orange High Schools to experience the real estate development and urban planning process in action.”