Urban Land Institute (ULI) is the oldest and largest network of real estate and land use experts in the world. The group has over 45 thousand members and aims to “shape the future of the built environment for transformative impact in communities worldwide.” We’ve worked extensively with ULI on a variety of projects including press releases with Global CEO Ed Walter, event coverage at their Spring and Fall Meetings, and short films to accompany the annual ULI Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.
The ULI Prize is presented to an individual who has made a “distinguished contribution to community building and whose commitment to creating the highest quality built environment has led to the betterment of our society.” For the past two years we’ve partnered with ULI to create a short film about the award winners. In 2019 we spent four days with renowned architect Alejandro Aravena to document his work in socially conscious housing. Most recently we interviewed real-estate developer Jonathan Rose about his eco-conscious developments. We’re honored to help tell these important stories.
The Jonathan Rose project began at his office in lower manhattan. During our interview, Jonathan told us about his desire to build communities of opportunity – mixed income housing communities that are green, affordable, and located within walking distance of mass transit. He explained that housing is the platform upon which healthy communities are built. This conversation set the tone for the entire film.
We left Jonathan’s office for a tour of Sendero Verde – his latest project in Harlem featuring 709 mixed-income residential units with ample community space, a 20,000 sq. ft courtyard and three community gardens. Jonathan pointed out the specialty windows in the building that help ensure superior levels of energy efficiency and indoor air quality. After a thorough tour of the building, we thanked Jonathan for his time and said our goodbyes.
The next day we met with Priscilla Almodovar, the president and CEO at Enterprise Community Partners. We asked Priscilla why Jonathan was deserving of the prize and she explained that Jonathan saw the connection between greening and affordable housing before anyone else did. Her testimonial gave us a new respect for Jonathan and his work.
Our time in New York concluded with a visit to Grace West Manner, a green affordable housing project located just outside the city. On the day we visited, the property was hosting a telehealth event. The event allows residents to have their vitals tested regularly and monitored offsite. Should abnormalities occur, the patients can be alerted and treated before it becomes an emergency requiring a hospital visit. Events like this are pillars of the model Jonathan uses to build “communities of opportunity.”
For the final portion of the shoot we met with two individuals close to Jonathan and his work. In Philadelphia we spoke with Marilyn Taylor, dean of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania; in Baltimore we spoke with Bart Harvey, a previous award winner. The underlying theme of all their stories was the same – Jonathan deserves this award now.
Through the process of shooting this film, our team learned a lot about how Jonathan and his team are creating green, affordable communities – both through technical mechanisms in the buildings and through programs among the community residents. We returned to Richmond with a broadened perspective on how our built environment is designed.
Working with the Altamira team has been excellent. I’ve been working with them for about four years now. They consistently deliver beyond our expectations. The team is easy to work with and very adaptable. I appreciate their flexibility and attention to detail. I plan to continue working with them for years to come.
– Kathryn Weiss | Director, Communications and Member Insights, Urban Land Institute
In 2019 the prize video took us to Santiago, Chile to create a film about Alejandro Aravena – a renowned architect known for his socially conscious building projects that attempt to break down economic inequality in urban areas. We spent four days shooting with Alejandro and visiting his notable projects in Santiago.
We met with Alejandro and his team at their office in downtown Santiago. As we arrived, the team was sharing wine and home-cooked lunch over a large conference table. They invited us to pull up a chair and Alejandro turned the conversation towards their work with “incremental housing.” He explained that unlike most real estate investments, government subsidized housing projects typically decrease in value over time.
After a devastating earthquake in Santiago, Alejandro and his team were challenged with creating a social housing project that would appreciate in value over time.
Their solution was incremental housing. They used their resources to finish the most difficult aspects of the build and give the homes a solid foundation, while leaving the less important aspects like paint up to the residents to complete. This allowed the money and resources to be utilized in a much more efficient way. The concept worked extremely well. Alejandro’s firm, Elemental, ultimately made the designs open-source and published them for free download on their website. Since then, incremental housing communities have been popping up all over the world.
After meeting Alejandro, we visited a few of the incremental housing communities located around Santiago. Despite the identical design, each house looked unique. Some had brightly painted walls and others had custom decks and balconies. The residents were friendly and a few invited us inside to see their homes. One gentleman explained that none of the walls were painted when his family first moved in, but over the years they’ve painted the entire house.
The short film we created debuted at the ULI’s 2019 Fall Meeting in Washington, DC with Alejandro in the crowd.
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