East Brunswick High first New Jersey school to offer UrbanPlan real estate course

Urban Land Institute (ULI), in partnership with the East Brunswick School District, announced the introduction of the first UrbanPlan program in New Jersey.

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 leading 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 our communities. The class is also designed to teach collaboration, teamwork and presentation skills, according to information provided by R&J Strategic Communications.

UrbanPlan is selectively offered at leading high schools and universities nationwide as an advanced placement, undergraduate and graduate class. ULI Northern New Jersey sought out East Brunswick High School (EBHS) as the first school to offer UrbanPlan in New Jersey, given its reputation for excellence in Social Studies and its national leadership in programs such as the Advanced Placement Institute for Political and Legal Education (IPLE), according to the statement.

“EBHS’ leadership and achievements in Social Studies and extensive advanced placement course offerings made it the perfect district to introduce this exceptional learning opportunity in New Jersey. It’s also timely given East Brunswick is in the early stages of redeveloping several areas of the town” Brian Whitmer, chairman of ULI Northern New Jersey, said in the statement.

“It’s a lot of work for educators to introduce new elements to their curriculum. We understand and appreciate the time and effort the district took to even consider UrbanPlan,” Mara Winokur, AICP, PP, senior director of ULI Northern New Jersey and Westchester/Fairfield, said in the statement.

Course materials and training were partially funded by a grant from ULI.


UrbanPlan was introduced at EBHS last month. It is a 15-class hour curriculum that tasks student teams with responding to a “request for proposals” for the redevelopment of a blighted neighborhood in a fictional community. Each team member assumes one of five roles: finance director, marketing director, city liaison, neighborhood liaison or site planner.

Through these roles, students develop a visceral understanding of how various market forces (supply and demand, availability of capital, risk versus reward, etc.) clash and collaborate with non-market 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 must 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, according to the statement.

In addition to the leadership of local ULI chapters, the UrbanPlan curriculum relies heavily upon the assistance of volunteers from the real estate, legal and civics communities. In the 2017-18 school year, 808 volunteers donated more than 3,865 hours to UrbanPlan programs across the country, according to the statement. EBHS’ UrbanPlan program will be supported by a group of dedicated volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds including:

  • Michael Lachs, SCGREA Middlesex County Board of Taxation, Valbridge Advisors (Co-Chair)
  • Brian Whitmer, Cushman & Wakefield (Co-Chair)
  • Dan Johnson, R&J Strategic Communications
  • Matthew Giammanco, AvalonBay Communities, Inc.
  • Dr. Brad Cohen, Township of East Brunswick (Mayor)
  • Ben Mitsmenn, PE, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
  • Gabrielle Gornelli, Dresdner Robin
  • Atanas Nakev, Sorin Group, LLC.
  • Jessica Sweet, Esq., J. Sweet & Co.
  • Stephanie Turkot, GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
  • Jim Wendell, Township of East Brunswick, (Councilman & Chair of the EB Redevelopment Agency)
  • Anshu Karundia, Investment Sales and Commercial Leasing
  • Professor Colette Santasieri, New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Priti Shah, Madison Adams Real Estate
  • George J. Carfagno, Developing Solutions LLC
  • Jessica Washington, Ripco
  • Dan Duggan, Bohler Engineering
  • Mara Winokur, AICP, PP, Senior Director, ULI NNJ & West/FF
  • Susan Wright, The Wright Architect

“As one of the nation’s most dynamic real estate markets, students in ULI Northern New Jersey’s UrbanPlan program will have unique access to some of the nation’s most experienced and knowledgeable real estate professionals. We appreciate their hard work in putting this program together and we look forward to expanding to additional New Jersey high schools and universities over the next several years,” Winokur said in the statement.

For more information about ULI Northern New Jersey, visit

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