Humphrey School News—May 12, 2016

Renowned Architect Peter Brown Inspires Students with High-Profile Project Expertise

Peter H. Brown is a passionate architect, city planner, activist, and adjunct professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, teaching a one-of-a-kind class about real estate development. Since 2008, Brown has been helping train Humphrey School students by sharing his experiences on high profile projects in Philadelphia and the Twin Cities. He is a jack of all trades—ranging from architectural design, city planning and government administration, to private project management, real estate development and urban redevelopment consulting—bringing Humphrey students unique perspectives from all sides of the business.

Currently, Brown is working on high-profile projects with the City of Minneapolis: the Nicollet Mall renovation, the new Downtown East Commons Park near the new Vikings stadium, and planning for the restoration of Peavey Plaza. In addition, he acts as an "owner's representative" on private projects.

"I feel really privileged to be able to work on these important public projects and fortunate to be a member of a great team in the City of Minneapolis," Brown says. "I was hired because I understand the city's perspective and know how to work within government, I have large project experience, and I've worked on the private sector side as well."

It's just the recipe needed to make the most of the effort to redesign and reconstruct Nicollet Mall.

Brown also enjoys playing the role of bridge between activists and fearful homeowners and the developers who have a tremendous impact on a neighborhood's design. This is the subject of his newest book, in which he sets out to help community members better understand developers' objectives and rights, and what the community's greatest potential influence and resources are to help development work. 

"No one understands who real estate developers are and what they do," Brown says. "My experience allows me to help bridge the gap between developers, stakeholders, and members of the community because at different points I have been each of those things. He laughs, "Somehow, it all fits together."

It is this unique perspective that Brown enjoys incorporating into his classroom. In using case studies as teaching models, he prompts students—some of whom come from other colleges at the University of Minnesota—to think about the issues from all sides, using their individual backgrounds and experiences to inform arguments. Professionals across all sectors in real estate development are often guest lecturers, helping connect the real estate world to the Humphrey School. From these interactions, students have gone on to work with these professionals and make their own way in the business.

"The greatest reward I get from te3aching the course is that every year 20 to 30 more students are out there in the world succeeding," he says, "and I get to see them out there."

Brown recently published his second book, How Real Estate Developers Think: Design, Profits, and Community. Check out more of his writing, projects, speaking, and teaching at

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