Urban Planning

Eric Fu-Wah James is an urban planner in San Francisco. Hailing from Minneapolis, he holds a Bachelor’s in Urban Studies and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota (2006, 2011). An influential urbanist in the Twin Cities, he has created and implemented successful urban revitalization technology projects. His property listing portal for Whittier neighborhood moved over 80,000 square feet in leasing and sales in just two years. His popular web-based urban magazine TwinCityScene.com gained over 6,000 Twitter followers through its coverage of city culture, arts and music. At Maxfield Research, he conducted market feasibility studies on high-rise residential and retail developments valued in the millions. He also was a technologist and designer for the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance in promoting public municipal broadband networks. Eric currently explores the nexus between technology and urban planning in San Francisco.

Skill Set

  • Mapping

  • ArcGIS Suite
  • Data Manipulation
  • Vector Marking
  • Suitability Analysis
  • Google SketchUp

  • Vector Development
  • Group/Component Competence
  • Interior, Exterior, Landscapes
  • Enhanced Imagery Export
  • Community Engagement

  • Meeting Facilitation
  • Constituent Relations
  • Diverse Groups
  • Market Research

  • Demographic Analysis
  • Economic Analysis
  • Feasibility Study
  • Site Analysis

Case Studies

New Suburban Downtowns

Tracking New Urbanism trends in both design and urban indicators in emerging Twin Cities suburban downtowns.

Suburban Centers in the Twin Cities – An Update on the New Urbanism Trend

New Urbanism in Maple Grove’s Arbor Lakes

Planning for a LEED Neighborhood

Create a mixed-use redevelopment (“Beacon’s Bluff”) that adheres to principles of environmental sustainability. Evaluate the former 3M site in Saint Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood for potential LEED Neighborhood Development certification. Team project with multiple components.

Length: Spring 2010, 2 months


  • Write extensive narratives on site background, history, current conditions, proposed uses, public participation process, transportation connections, environmental impacts, and project cost-benefit analysis.
  • Work through LEED-ND checklist to calculate points, provide contextual justification and evidence on over 30 data points.
  • Conduct traffic analysis and impact utilizing city data and trip generation models.
  • Evaluate cost-benefit through calculating unit mix and potential revenue, construction cost projections.

Beacon’s Bluff LEED-ND Analysis Final Report

Beacon’s Bluff Traffic Analysis

Trends in Successful Urban Districts – Supporting documentation

Preserving Downtown Northeast

Proposal for a new designated historic district of the former Old Saint Anthony downtown.


  • Researched a dozen buildings for construction information, materials, and historic relevance.
  • Examined nearby historic districts for precedence.
  • Conducted field tour to check and confirm sites, perform site photography.
  • Write historic narrative and present proposal in PowerPoint.

Nordeast CBD Preservation Narrative

Retail Future of Stevens Square

Analyze existing retail and office market conditions along Nicollet Avenue in the Steven’s Square neighborhood. Provide recommendations for site redevelopment and absorption of additional retail types.

Client: Stevens Square Community Organization

Length: Jan 2008 – June 2008, 6 months

– Calculate trade area demographics, trends, projections, commuting patterns, traffic, income, household expenditures.
– Evaluate all sites and structures on the avenue including type of business, customer draw, and market position.
– Evaluate vacant store fronts for overturn potential, determine viable types of retail at each location
– Interview city officials and stakeholders on pending and future retail and office developments.
– Recommend re-branding and structuring into “gateway” district, focus redevelopment efforts on Village Center Mall as anchor, market area to appropriate retail types appropriate to existing resident incomes.

Retail Market Analysis excerpt

Revitalizing Whittier Neighborhood

Objective: Create a retail listing website that showcases available properties for rent in the Whittier neighborhood. Promote neighborhood revitalization and street vitality by connecting potential tenants to property owners and accelerate the overturn process for empty store fronts. Provide an acceptable scope of work and RFP response to satisfy granters.

Contract Length: November 2011 – March 2012, 1 year 3 months


  • Designed and coded interactive store front leasing listing website using HTML/CSS, jQuery
  • Performed beautiful site photography on over 20 sites on winter days
  • Researched sites and contacted leasing agents to collect leasing information
  • Connected city ordinances and county data to listings.

Leasing information on about 20 retail properties in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis were collected and put together into an attractive web listing.  As a marketing and leasing tool, this page balances text and visual appeal to draw potential retailers to the Whittier “brand” but also provide timely information. Full project included proposal, design, layout, and code. The site was applauded by the City of Minneapolis Business Retention program and Councilmember Robert Lilligren Ward 6.

Developed: 2012
View Live Site

UB Coffee Lyndale

Objective: Plan, implement and oversee approval process for new Urban Bean coffee house location at Lyndale and 24th Street including licensing for food, liquor and sidewalk cafe. Develop interior and exterior concept with client and architect.

Length: December 2010 – September 2011, 10 months


  • Designed effective interior and exterior visualizations in Google Sketch Up, allowing client to make appropriate material selections to save costs and time.
  • Provided detailed architectural renderings to assist contractors in construction.
  • Made suggestions for improvement in final designs including placement and configuration of bar and seating.
  • Provided necessary documentation and renderings for City of Minneapolis food licensing, liquor licensing, and sidewalk cafe approval process. All three applications were approved.
  • Engaged community stakeholders for a successful approval process.
  • Obtained revised reduced SAC/WAC (sewer-water access) fees from Metropolitan Council by painstakingly acquiring and providing historic licensing data on the space.
  • Delivered professional conduct in speaking and writing, instrumentally acted as liaison for client’s needs and goals.