Adam Tanaka Photo

Adam Tanaka

Lecturer in Urban Planning and Design, GSD


This course provides a high-intensity introduction to the theory and practice of urban development in the contemporary United States. Through lectures, technical workshops, reading assignments, and individual and group exercises, students will learn how to use the tools of real estate development and finance to accomplish a variety of urban policy and planning objectives, including the provision of affordable housing, resilient infrastructure, community facilities, open space, and other public goods.

City building today is characterized by an increasingly complex and sometimes counter-intuitive relationship between public and private interests. To effectively intervene in this hybrid landscape, students will learn how both public and private actors – including non-profits and community-based organizations – engage in the conception, financing, development, and operation of urban real estate. Students will also learn how to think critically about urban development ventures, using the concepts of use and exchange value to interrogate the trade-offs inherent in public-private deal-making. The goal of the class is to foster a reflexive practitioner, equipped with the tools of the trade yet attuned to the risks of public entrepreneurship. Whether planner, designer, developer, or advocate, understanding the fundamentals of project implementation is critical to forging more equitable and resilient cities.

The course is structured into four parts. First, we will learn the core analytical methods employed by public-private real estate professionals, including the stabilized year pro forma, discounted cash flow analysis, and fiscal and economic impact analysis. We will then examine a range of qualitative frameworks for evaluating urban development projects, including legal, institutional, administrative, political, and ethical considerations. Third, we will explore the specific implementation tools used to realize public-private development projects, including programmatic subsidies, below-market financing, eminent domain, value capture mechanisms, and public land disposition through sale or lease. In the final section of the course, a series of practitioners will present “live case studies” covering the full spectrum of public and private development actors, including public authorities, non-profit and for-profit developers, community land trusts, business improvement districts, and others.

Also offered by the Graduate School of Design as SES-05103.

The course has no prerequisites. However, students without prior real estate experience will be required to attend four real estate finance workshops over the course of the semester.