A toast to the Urban Dirty

Business Business | Tech

Urban Dirty: A glass of Hoyne’s Dark Matter with a drop shot of bourbon (because it rhymes with urban).

In the UVic Urban Development Club, it’s said that if you overdo it on Urban Dirties, you’ll end up doing the “urban sprawl.” It is this sense of humour, along with the fact that they meet at the UVic Grad House on a weekly basis, that won the club its own official drink on The Grad House Restaurant menu. The idea for the new beer cocktail came out of one of the most important aspects of the club: the relaxed, intimate atmosphere that attracts a group of committed students and urban planning professionals.

Urban development is a profession and area of research that emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction to the myriad of interrelated issues, such as pedestrian-versus-traffic street planning, building allowances, and environmental impact management, that arise during the industrialization and growth of cities. This area of work and study attracts a diverse group of professionals, spanning from architects and civil engineers to public health specialists, economists, geographers, and politicians. As described by the School of Urban Planning at McGill, urban development is a “technical and political process concerned with the welfare of people, control of the use of land, design of the urban environment including transportation and communication networks, and protection and enhancement of the natural environment.” Urban planners and urban designers do more than build cities—they help build communities.

The Urban Development Club was born out of a group of students with an interest in this deep and broad topic. They are also seeking an answer to that age-old question, “What do I do with my degree?” Members say that the club’s greatest success so far comes from its ability to bridge the divide between students and the professional urban development community. Nearly every Wednesday evening since the club’s inception in September, students have had the opportunity to have informal chats with industry veterans over drinks at the Grad House. They have also been able to explore the field of urban development by touring various public and private spaces.

The club has gained incredible momentum, with many enthusiastic students showing up at the weekly meetings despite the fact that they do not normally advertise. The club has also become a resource for the professional urban development world. Members are often called upon to volunteer or assist with research, quickly becoming a part of the social and professional networks that their careers will be founded on.

The reason for the lack of advertising has a lot to do with the atmosphere that club directors are trying to create. The goal is to keep meetings informal and wieldy, with the ideal number of participants between 15 and 20. Although interested individuals are never discouraged, there is concern that with too large a group, the quality of the meetings could be diluted. The smaller the group, the easier it is to foster honest connections between students and pros, creating a comfortable environment in which to learn and ask questions.

Above all, the club is looking for the most motivated individuals. Club president Oliver Tennant says, “We like having [students] that are keen, who find us and are real go-getters . . . There are some real, tangible opportunities to be given to [them].” These opportunities may be in the form of internships and work experience, two things that are very important in the transition from campus to professional life.

Find the Urban Development Club on Twitter (@UVicUDC), for photos of their meetings and tours, as well as links to current research and news.