Master of Urban Planning: Specialization in Urban Economic Development

The specialization in economic development provides students with an understanding of theory and practice as they pertain to the functioning of urban economies and to public and nonprofit sector efforts to influence them.

While the theoretical and policy frameworks developed in the specialization are broad, tools and practice emphasize approaches that aim to stimulate development in core urban communities that have experienced disinvestment and to improve the economic opportunities available to disadvantaged populations. Students completing this specialization may find employment in public planning and economic development agencies, community development organizations or private consulting companies.

Urban economic development has been one of the fastest-growing subfields in planning in recent years. Planners have played key roles in the emergence of urban economic development, in particular bringing knowledge of land and property markets to bear on other urban economic issues. This concentration is important in all urban settings but is especially significant in larger metropolitan areas with an aging central city displaying the attendant economic, social and physical problems. Cities such as Detroit now view economic development efforts as essential. Moreover, the corporate and nonprofit sectors place increasing importance on urban (local) economic development as they see that it is in their best interests to support and stimulate local market activity.

Faculty who teach in this area of concentration are engaged in a variety of research on economic development topics, including the use of tax abatements by Michigan municipalities to stimulate economic growth, comparative analysis of well-regarded and troubled mid-sized small towns, availability of venture capital for minority entrepreneurs, and strategies for promoting improved urban retailing, especially supermarkets.

Students selecting this concentration would also be eligible for the Graduate Certificate in Economic Development (based on credits gained across a variety of programs). For more information, contact the graduate director.


This concentration has a two-tier set of requirements; students take two courses in tier one and one in tier two.

Tier one

Tier one includes two required courses:

  • UP 6550 Regional, State and Urban Economic Development: Policy and Administration: This course provides the conceptual framework for the specialization; it introduces students to the major types of revitalization strategies and how they can be evaluated.
  • UP 6570 Local Economic Development: Implementation and Finance: This exposes students in-depth to major economic development strategies and tools with an emphasis on financing. UP 6550 or permission of instructor is a prerequisite.

Tier two

Tier two includes those courses from which students pick their third course. Pre-approved courses include:

  • UP 6680 Neighborhood Decline and Revitalization (three credits)
  • UP 6310 Real Estate Development (three credits)
  • UP 6340 Community Development (three credits)
  • UP 5820 Urban and Regional Economics (ECO 5800, which has ECO 2010 (Microeconomics) or consent of instructor as a prerequisite) (three credits)

Students may substitute alternative electives that match specialized interests as long as they are included in an approved plan of work; examples might include a proposed new course with a labor emphasis or a course in finance at the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

See courses offered by semester

Course sequencing

Students are strongly advised to begin their specialization coursework with UP 6550. It is best taken after UP 6510 Urban and Regional Systems.