ULI Reality Check: Growing by choice, not by chance

Elise Partin, mayor of Cayce.

Elise Partin, mayor of Cayce.

Today was the kickoff of a program that a bunch of community leaders have been working on under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute.

Here’s the release about the event:

  Midlands Reality Check Focuses on Growth and Progress for South Carolina’s Capital Region

Columbia, S.C.  Midlands members of Urban Land Institute South Carolina, together with area stakeholders, government officials and business/industry leaders, today announced the launch of Midlands Reality Check, an unprecedented, collaborative effort aimed at creating a strong, progressive and sustainable urban growth plan for the future of the Midlands.

“Creating a realistic and attainable regional vision for the Midlands is imperative if we want to remain competitive and be viewed as a desirable entrepreneurial hub, that is an ideal place to live, work, visit and play,” said Irene Dumas Tyson, co-chair of Midlands Reality Check and director of planning for The Boudreaux Group.

Demographers estimate the Midlands region will grow by approximately 450,000 individuals in the next 30 years. That is equivalent to putting slightly more than the population of the four-county Asheville, N.C. metropolitan area into the Midlands by 2040.

“The goal of Midlands Reality Check is to bring together a diverse group of Midlands business, government and community leaders to work together and identify how we can grow by choice – not by chance – over the next three decades,” said Herbert Ames, development manager with EDENS and co-chair of Midlands Reality Check with Dumas Tyson.

One unique aspect for Midlands Reality Check will be a participatory “Game Day” event mixing 300 individuals from across the region and engage them in open dialogue on where the highest concentrations of development and infrastructure should be within our community. Taking place Oct. 22 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, participants will use Lego playing pieces to represent increases in population, jobs and housing; and colored yarn for transportation corridors and to outline potential green spaces.

“It may sound like fun and games, but this innovative approach to urban development looks at a region in a tactful and creative way that will highlight areas across the Midlands that are prime growth opportunities,” said Dumas Tyson.

Funded by private sponsors, foundations, governments and community organizations, Midlands Reality Check will focus on laying the needed groundwork for a more cohesive approach to strategically and thoughtfully uncovering pockets of potential growth and expansion across the Midlands. The event will lay the groundwork for needed regional conversations and future action to accommodate growth in a way that adds value to our communities while simultaneously protecting and improving our quality of life.

The Urban Land Institute has held Reality Check events in some 15 locations around the country, including Greenville, Charleston, Richmond, Charlotte, the Research Triangle and Jacksonville, Fla.

“We are confident this initiative is the catalyst the Midlands needs to put some big things in motion. This process and event will be the blueprint for intentional, collaborative change in the way our region thinks and acts about growth for decades to come,” said Ames.

For more information about the Midlands Reality Check or how to get involved, please visit www.MidlandsRealityCheck.com.

About Midlands Reality Check:
Midlands Reality Check is a South Carolina initiative of The Urban Land Institute created by a regional collaboration of stakeholders and leaders within the business, government, economic development and tourism sectors. Focusing on urban growth and planned land use, Midlands Reality Check will lay the foundation for a unified vision to grow the Midlands. For more information about Midlands Reality Check, please visit www.MidlandsRealityCheck.com.

About the Urban Land Institute:
ULI, the Urban Land Institute, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research and education organization supported by its members. Founded in 1936, ULI now has members worldwide, representing the entire spectrum of land use and real estate development disciplines working in private enterprise and public service. A multidisciplinary real estate forum, ULI facilitates an open exchange of ideas, information, and experience among industry leaders and policy makers dedicated to creating better places. ULI South Carolina was the first statewide district council formed and has since become a national model. For more information about ULI South Carolina, please visit southcarolina.uli.org.


That pretty much covers it. I’m glad somebody wrote a release, because I was busy Tweeting during the event, and couldn’t take extensive notes. It’s not that I can’t pay attention; I was supposed to be Tweeting. By way of full disclosure, I’m on the committee that is publicizing the program, and I drew social media duty today. Which I like, I’ll admit.

There was an impressive crowd there today. Not huge (it was Famously Hot in the amphitheater along the riverfront in West Columbia), but a good assortment of the kind of people who need to pay attention were there — the mayors of Columbia, Lexington, Cayce and Blythewood, leading members of Richland and Lexington county councils, key business leaders. The folks who need to be paying attention to trends and anticipating them to the extent that it’s possible.

Here’s a link to thestate.com’s story on the event.

Irene Dumas Tyson of The Boudreaux Group, co-chair of the effort.

Irene Dumas Tyson of The Boudreaux Group, co-chair of the effort.

8 thoughts on “ULI Reality Check: Growing by choice, not by chance

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Kinda too bad we won’t find out what Bob Hughes has in mind for a huge chunk of the central city until after the agreement is signed. Don’t suppose the ULI report might be useful in shaping this? Nah, let’s just sign up the next twenty years in two weeks!

  2. Juan Caruso

    Attorney Matt Bogan representing Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is on ULI’s steering. Area “stakeholders”, government officials and business/industryleaders launched Midlands Reality Check, an unprecedented, collaborative effort aimed at creating a strong, progressive and sustainable urban growth plan for the future of the Midlands.

    Caruso’s ULI Reality Checks:

    1) September 27, 2012 – The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) recently released their guide, Urban Planning for City Leaders. The handbook, written by ULI/Citistates Summit participant Pablo Vaggione of Design Convergence, provides leaders and decision-makers with a framework for decision-making around best practices in urban planning. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–HABITAT) is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It was established in 1978 and has its headquarters at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, Kenya. It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group.

    2) Obviously, individual taxpayers, homeowners, renters, small bussinesses, nor their associations are not considered “stakeholders” of significance to the socialist effort. What we see so far appears no less than another all too familiar unelected, socialist-style “steering committee” comprised largely of “volunteers” lobbying for grandiose revenue schemes.

    3) Notwithstanding 1), the remedy (well-known to corporate America) is so simple and inexpensive that its absence is likely a red flag for public deception:
    a) Acquaint the public from the start with the ‘Best Practices’ and precepts promoted by the Urban Land taxpayers across the nation.
    b) Identify to an ill-informed public at least one urban area of comparable size, demographics, etc to the Midlands as an erstwhile ULI success story with its own residents.
    c) Because 2030 fruition is rather distant for ‘government officials and business/industry leaders’ to be selling visions (schemes?), present interim benchmark attainment by the urban area identified in b).

    1. Doug Ross

      Beware of committees spending public funds. Someone is going to make some big money on this.

  3. Mark Stewart



    Urban planning isn’t socialistic; it is visionary. If we don’t look to building a better future, we will assuredly pass on an environment worse than our own. We can plan for growth now. In the future, we won’t be able to – or certainly not as easily. But you are right, politicians on their own don’t usually look out beyond 5 years. Which is exactly why business people have focused on the long term. What’s your objection? Dogma?

    1. Juan Caruso

      “Urban planning isn’t socialistic; it is visionary. If we don’t look to building a better future, we will assuredly pass on an environment worse than our own.” Mark S.

      Perhaps you intended to say urban planning isn’t [always] socialistic; it is visionary. Otherwise, you might want to tackle the immense scale of urban pollution being passed on annually. In reality, it dwarfs BP’s Gulf oil spill.


      Brad has an open forum here. Let’s not give ourselves a podium for familiar, PC correct propaganda. Let’s give our readers real facts to consider for themselves.

  4. Mark Stewart

    Not sure what you are implying, Juan. We shouldn’t plan for population, school, transportation and utilities growth in this area until the country’s major cities stop stormwater overflow discharges? It does tend to rain in most parts of the country; and did before humans walked the earth. How about we first focus on the issues that WE create?

    1. Juan Caruso

      Mark, while the aims and methodologies of the ULI’s Midlands effort may be genuinely laudable, the secretive approach (ordinary citizens and businesses excluded) is abhorrent. The approach, so far, lack of transparency, red flags the unfortunate possibility of public deception and opportunities for government corruption mentioned by Doug Ross.

      A better alternative comes from today’s newspapers. What is refreshing is the effort to be LESS secretive by keeping taxpayers and voting public in another visionary loop. Excerpts:

      “The $43 million project on a 100-acre site near Greer is steaming ahead toward its previously announced opening on September 1. It will extend the capabilities of the Port of Charleston 212 miles inland,”

      “We wanted to update everyone about what has gone on so far and what they can expect to see moving forward,” said SC Ports Authority spokeswoman Allison Skipper. “We wanted to give them physical plans and pictures they could look at, as well as an opportunity to interact with people involved in the project.”

      “Representatives from the SC Ports Authority, Norfolk Southern railroad, S.C. Department of Transportation, City of Greer and Greer CPW handed out information and spoke with residents during the two-hour meeting.”

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