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Best Minds: Ellen Dunham-Jones

Best Minds E41 Ellen Dunham Jones Header scaled
September 22, 2023 Podcast Suburban Housing

How does academia set the course for the future of real estate?

In this episode of Conversations with the Best Minds in Real Estate, RCLCO’s CEO, Adam Ducker, sits down with Ellen Dunham-Jones, a Professor of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the MS in Urban Design.

An award winning co-author of two books, Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges (2021) and Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, (2009) as well as the podcast host of REDESIGNING CITIES, Ellen gives us academic perspective on what it means to be an urbanist and the future of real estate practitioners.

“The biggest difference between urban planning and urban design is that urban designers draw a lot. Most urban planners in the U.S….do great analytical research, they write papers, they do a lot of community engagement…but it’s not drawing the actual layout of neighborhoods…and really integrating at that larger scale.”

– Ellen on the main difference of urban planning vs. urban design

In addition, the Adam and Ellen discuss retrofitting suburbia and what the suburbs represent in the current real estate market space.

“…the supply of sites that are ripe for some kind of retrofitting just keeps growing.”

– Ellen’s optimistic outlook on re-imagining suburbia


About Ellen Dunham-Jones

Ellen Dunham-Jones is a professor of architecture and directs the MS in Urban Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  An authority on sustainable suburban redevelopment, she maintains a unique database of over 2,500 suburban retrofits, hosts the REDESIGNING CITIES podcast series, was Architectural Record’s 2018-19 Woman Educator of the year and was recognized in 2023 and 2017 by Planetizen as one of the 100 most influential urbanists.

She is co-author with June Williamson of two award-winning books: Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Strategies for Urgent Challenges (Wiley, 2021) received the Place Book of the year award from the Environmental Design Research Association. And Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, (Wiley, 2009, 2011, Mandarin 2013) received a PROSE award as best architecture and planning book of 2009. These books document how successful retrofits of aging shopping centers, strip mall corridors, office parks, etc. are helping their communities disrupt automobile dependence, improve public health, support an aging population, leverage social capital for equity, compete for jobs, and add water and energy resilience. The work has been featured in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, PBS, NPR, TED and other prominent venues.

She is a Fellow of the Congress for the New Urbanism as well as the Brook Byers Institute of Sustainable Systems, lectures widely, and conducts workshops and research on the many co-benefits of retrofitting – as well as on the potential urban design impacts of autonomous vehicles. She serves on several national committees, has BS and M.Arch degrees from Princeton University, practiced architecture for 20 years, and taught at UVA and MIT before being recruited to direct the Architecture Program at Georgia Tech in 2000.

About Adam Ducker, CEO, RCLCO

Adam Ducker is Chief Executive Officer of RCLCO and oversees the firm’s Real Estate Economics and Management Consulting Practices. Adam joined RCLCO in the mid-1990s as an associate directly after graduate school and learned the trade with the firm. He is a recognized expert in strategic planning for real estate companies, investment analysis, market and financial analysis, and marketing of real estate assets. He has particular depth of expertise in high-density housing, retail/entertainment, and hotel development.

Adam is a member of the Executive Committee of RCLCO, which manages shared resources and oversees overall company strategy. He also sits on the board of the RCLCO Foundation.

Adam is a frequent speaker on topics ranging from place-making, urban redevelopment, retail trends, and in-town housing. His writing has been widely published and quoted in publications such as The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalUrban LandReal Assets, among others. He is an active member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), vice chair of the Redevelopment and Reuse Council, and a board member of the Terwilliger Center for Housing. A native of the New York metropolitan area, Adam received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Columbia University.



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