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DEVELOPING WITH DUPLOS

New York

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DEVELOPING WITH DUPLOS
If you see local high schoolers playing with Duplo blocks, it isn't budget cuts. More likely, they’re taking part in ULI New York’s UrbanPlan, a real estate course that gives students a sense of development market reality (and yes, the plastic bricks do help).
Benenson Capital Partners and ULI New York chair Richard Kessler
With its 13th semester nearing, ULI NY is again bringing the course to four NYC schools. Chapter prez and program chair Richard Kessler of Benenson Capital Partners tells us the six-week program is incorporated into the schools’ government, business law, social studies, or economics curriculum. (For recess, perhaps scaffold climbing?) It teaches students about factors like public needs and payback. A teacher teaches eight of the twice-a-week classes, while a ULI land-use facilitator teaches the others; the students then form teams and compete against each other, presenting mock RFPs for the redevelopment of blighted neighborhood to a panel of judges.

Benenson Capital Partners' Lawrence Benenson and Richard Kessler with $25k check for UrbanPlan
For the second year in a row, the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation has donated $25k to UrbanPlan for new computers with economic model software, which are used in development of the RFPs along with tools like blank grids and Duplo blocks (here,Lawrence Benenson hands the check to Richard). Each team member assumes one of five roles, such as finance director or site planner, developing a visceral understanding of the stakeholders in the development process and addressing financial, social, political, and design issues. Richard says he is amazed by the students’enthusiasm and creativity, and hopes to expand the program into more schools, assuming other education-oriented foundations can lend support.