Terry Foegler has a passion for the information that shapes cities.
Often the voice and face of insight2050, Foegler retired in December after six years as director of strategic initiatives for the City of Dublin, where he oversaw planning and development of the Bridge Street Corridor and helped prepare the city for a new era of growth. Before that, he worked for decades in planning and economic development in southwest and Central Ohio.
His career took him through an array of positions in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and in each job he accumulated the knowledge and skills that ultimately brought him to Dublin, MORPC, and the Urban Land Institute. He and insight2050 were a perfect fit.
Foegler was Dublin’s economic development director for six years in the 1990s, then then was head of Campus Partners, the non-profit development arm of The Ohio State University, for planning and development of South Campus Gateway. In 2008, he returned to Dublin as city manager for two years.
In the transition from Campus Partners to the city manager job, Foegler read a book that helped weave together his previous and future jobs. In The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream, Christopher B. Leinberger noted that many baby boomers – the first generation to grow up in communities designed to accommodate the automobile – are now setting up their empty nests in smaller homes and urban, walkable neighborhoods. Those are the same kinds of places that lured millennials in their early professional lives.
The message and its implications in the 2008 book were an epiphany for Foegler, and he wanted to make sure the idea took root in Dublin as he left for a new job at OSU as associate vice president for planning and real estate.
Two years later he was back in Dublin as a consultant to nurture those roots as they grew into millions of dollars of public and private investment in 1,000 acres on both sides of the Scioto River.
At the same time, he chaired a regional growth panel at MORPC and was on the governance committee of the newly formed Columbus District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI Columbus) – along with Yaromir Steiner and others who were concerned about the same demographic trends that motivated Foegler. The work of demographer Arthur Nelson and Smart Growth pioneer Peter Calthorpe – both of whom ultimately helped shape insight2050 – led ULI Columbus to study the trends in Central Ohio.
All of these pieces eventually came together at MORPC, in partnership with ULI Columbus and Columbus2020.
“For me, it was taking what I was doing in Dublin, building on my ties with MORPC, [and then] doing it at a regional level,” Foegler said. “All that regional data and analysis helped when I went to (Dublin) City Council about why we’re doing this.”
It showed council members that projects like Bridge Street were really an investment in the long-term future of the entire city – that such development attracted young professionals, kept empty nesters in the city, and made Dublin a more comprehensive community. And it is in some ways a microcosm of what insight2050 can mean to the entire region.
“Insight2050 has done a lot of what it could do for its initial rollout – getting information out and changing the dialogue,” Foegler said. “But in a politically fragmented region, jurisdictions need to decide what they want to become. How do we translate this to the development and redevelopment opportunities that exist in our communities?”
He said he hopes future phases of insight2050 will focus on aging issues, and, at the other end of the age spectrum, schools, affordable housing, attracting and keeping young talent in the region, while addressing poverty and related issues.
Will Foegler continue to have a role? Most certainly. He’s not the shy, retiring type. He intends to stay busy in retirement.
“I’ll be looking for initiatives where I can add value and that are interesting to me,” he said. “I’ll be trying to transform and advance new efforts that are counter to current market conditions.”