Jess Zimbabwe is the Principal of Plot Strategies. She served until recently for ten years as the founding Director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership—a partnership the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The Center’s flagship program was the Daniel Rose Fellowship, which brought the mayors and senior leadership teams of 4 cities together for a year-long program of learning from land use experts, technical assistance, study tours, leadership development, and peer-to-peer exchange. The Rose Center also convened thought leaders, conducted research, and delivered educational programs on topics of public/private interest in real estate development, design, planning, economic development, and land use strategy. Jess was also a member of the senior management teams at both ULI and NLC.
Previously, Jess was the Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. In that capacity she worked with over 125 American mayors and cities to help local leaders better understand issues of urban design so that they could advocate for better built environments in their own communities. During her time at the Mayors’ Institute, she also served as Vice President for Programs at the American Architectural Foundation, overseeing that organization’s Great Schools by Design program and developing the Sustainable Cities Design Academy. Prior to that, Jess served as the Community Design Director at Urban Ecology, providing pro bono community planning and design assistance to low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her primary project was the design and development of a community cultural center in the San Antonio district of East Oakland.
Jess is a member of the urban planning faculty at Georgetown University, teaching courses in urban revitalization, ethics, and urban design. She earned a Master of Architecture and Master of City Planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University.
Jess was an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and a Fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute of the Women’s Foundation of California. She served from 2012 to 2017 as Chair of the Board of Directors of Next City, and also serves on the boards of Colloqate and the National Main Street Center. She has held a mayoral appointment to the Washington, DC Green Building Advisory Council for seven years. She is a licensed architect and a LEED-Accredited professional.