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Puerto Rico ULI Advisory Service Panel

December 2, 2018
December 7, 2018
Toa Baja, Puerto Rico
Toa Baja, Puerto Rico

Sponsors: Kresge Foundation, ULI Southeast Florida

Subject Area Themes: Hurricane Recovery, Land-Use, Housing and Resilient Infrastructure, Economic Development

Panel Leadership: Chair: Jim DeFrancia, Lowe and Vice-Chair: Sarah Sieloff, Center for Land Recycling


Background and Panel Assignment:


In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, the deadliest storm to hit Puerto Rico in 100 years, slammed into the island’s coast with winds that reached 155 mph. This was just a few short weeks after Hurricane Irma left more than 1 million residents without power.


The Urban Land Institute Advisory Services Team visited with the municipality of Toa Baja leadership and staff in late August 2018 to discuss the opportunity to provide technical assistance to enhance the community’s economic and climate resilience. The team received context of Hurricane Maria and Irma’s impacts as well as a guided tour of areas the municipality identified in need of reinvestment.


The visit resulted in an agreement to host the municipality for a Project Analysis Session at our Fall 2018 meeting in Boston, MA. ULI received an official Project Analysis Session (P.A.S) Application from the municipality of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico with a statement of the problem and questions for the panel. During the Project Analysis Session, the panel chair, vice-chair and a few confirmed panelists participated in a two-hour intimate working session to better define the project scope and questions for the upcoming panel.


In early December 2018, ULI expert member panelists will visit the municipality to engage with local stakeholders, which will ultimately inform formal recommendations.  The following key items will be addressed:


Economic Development:

  • Identify Toa Baja’s economic drivers and regional competitive advantage.
  • Leverage competitive advantages and economic drivers. Demonstrate examples of economic strategies other cities have used in similar circumstances.
  • Define role that land use and real estate plays in leveraging these items.
  • Summarize market research projecting opportunities within the municipality.
  • Strategize to encourage repopulation, tourism, and investment.



  • Recommend partnerships and funding opportunities available post hurricane Maria and Irma to enhance resilience and improve preparedness for future shocks and stressors.
  • Clarify the natural and man-made features that impact Toa Baja’s ability to bounce-back from extreme storm events and other stressors.
  • Establish how Toa Baja can better prepare for extreme weather, including future hurricane, storm surge and flooding. Clarifying action items for city, individuals’ households, local businesses and the real estate community.
  • Provide strategies to ensure all residents, of different incomes and backgrounds, benefit from and have access to investments in resilience and preparedness for extreme events.


Municipality Land Use Protocols:

  • Demonstrate how land development processes to best can help mitigate and effectively address environmental issues such as water management and energy.
  • Highlight specific geographic location opportunities that provide the municipality with a supply of land to meet their long term economic and housing goals while minimizing risk in terms of flooding, tsunami impact, etc.
  • Inform an approach on land tenancy with formal and informal property rights as a basis for investment and interest from the public and private sector development organizations. Inform how a new GIS and accurate associate property ownership inform that process.


At this time, the ULI team has confirmed the panelists who collectively have varied and broad experience and knowledge in development, design, government, resilience, marketing and engineering applicable to the challenges and opportunities within this community. The panel team includes:


  1. Jim DeFrancia, Lowe, Chair – Colorado
  2. Sarah Sieloff, Center for Land Recycling, Vice-Chair – California
  3. Michael Bloom, R.G. Miller Engineers, Inc. – Texas
  4. Trini Rodriguez, ParlerRpdriquez, Inc. – Virginia
  5. Nicole Ferinni, El Paso Government – Texas
  6. Tom Roth, Grass River Property – Florida
  7. Don Edwards, Justice & Sustainability Associates – Washington, D.C.
  8. Chris Calott, University of California, Berkeley – California
  9. Bob Van der Zande, Amsterdam Housing Office – Amsterdam


Key Public Engagement Events during the panel week will take place:

o             Monday, December 3, 2018, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. – Public Reception

o             Friday, December 7, 2018, 8:30 – 11:00 a.m. – Panel Presentation

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