Recognizing Excellence in Shaping Communities: Zipcar Cofounder Robin Chase is the 2017 Recipient of
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Internationally acclaimed transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase, who rose to prominence in the early 2000s as the cofounder and chief executive officer of Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing company, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Urban Land Institute's (ULI) J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Chase is the 18th recipient of the prize, which recognizes a person, or a person representing an institution, whose work demonstrates a commitment to the creation of communities that reflect the highest standards of design and development. She will be honored at ULI's 2017 Fall Meeting, which will be held October 23-26 in Los Angeles.
The Nichols Prize honors the legacy of Kansas City, Missouri, developer J.C. Nichols, a founding ULI member considered to be one of America's most creative entrepreneurs in land use during the first half of the 20th century. Nichols built his signature development, Country Club District, to accommodate what he correctly anticipated would be the future proliferation of automobile owners in urban areas. Chase—the first Nichols Prize laureate whose career has not directly involved real estate practices or policy making—conceived Zipcar in 2000 as a car ownership alternative that would provide easy, convenient, and inexpensive access to vehicles on an as-needed basis.
With its debut, Zipcar disrupted car ownership dependence and the car rental process by allowing urban residents to reserve online, and securely pick up and drop off cars on an hourly basis from unattended parking locations around the city; years later, the process would be further simplified with a smartphone app. The effects and implications of Zipcar rippled quickly through city planning departments, the development industry, and academia, raising questions such as how much and what kind of parking is necessary to satisfy city residents? Starting with one Volkswagen Beetle in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company now offers more than 12,000 vehicles to over 1 million users in 500-plus cities around the globe.
The lasting impacts of Chase's car-sharing idea on urban design and development are what earned her the Nichols Prize, which is the Institute's highest honor. She demonstrated how sharing reduces the number of cars used by urban residents as well as the number of parking spaces they need. She also demonstrated that sharing is welcomed by the mainstream of people, and that it has a viable business model. Zipcar set the stage for the rise of the sharing economy, including Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft.
Nichols Prize Jury Chairman Mark W. Johnson, president of Civitas in Denver, noted that the selection of Chase demonstrates a recognition of the influence that visionaries outside the real estate industry are having on the built environment. "It's important to acknowledge that the issues driving urbanization in America are about more than real estate. Technology is having a big impact on the formation of communities – today we have different commu