Before Urban3 helped communities understand the true value of good design, there was Julian Price.
Julian moved to Asheville and saw the dilapidated state of the downtown against the backdrop of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains and began to dream. In the early 1990s, Downtown Asheville, like many downtowns, faced an uncertain future after years of neglect and disinvestment. Its vacant storefronts and empty streets repelled visitors and locals alike, despite the beautiful scenery. The city had lost its soul.
Julian had inherited a family fortune and decided to invest his money into the people and places that, with a little help, could reinvigorate downtown. Despite cries of “that’s impossible” and “that’ll never work here,” Julian created the development company Public Interest Projects in 1990 and tapped Pat Whalen to take the lead. With practical and well-connected Pat Whalen at the helm, PIP would work to find fellow dreamers and give them the trust and support they needed to succeed, believing that their success would make downtown a better place for everybody.
Julian wasn’t afraid to get down in the weeds—he picked up trash and fixed park benches, but he also had a crystal clear, big-picture vision. He knew that investing in restaurants, local media outlets, mixed-use buildings, and a self-help credit union would gradually create a self-sustaining ecosystem that would attract downtown residents, invite tourists, and help small businesses thrive. Together, these ingredients brought Downtown Asheville back to life.
Seeing that other communities could, like Asheville, benefit from changing the narrative surrounding development, land use, and public policy, the consulting arm of PIP was created in 2011 as Urban3. From the start, Urban3 has been rooted in the history of Julian Price and Public Interest Projects rethinking what’s possible, emphasizing the importance of hidden potential, and believing that meaningful conversations create change.