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GNUs from ULI

Published on: November 17, 2016

The Urban Land Institute’s mission is “to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and creating sustaining thriving communities worldwide.”

As the preeminent organization dedicated to the real estate industry, ULI casts a very wide net. Virtually every land use type, critical movements and trending issues, best practices and innovative initiatives are all within ULI’s purview. The efficacy with which ULI fulfills this mission is always on display at the Annual Fall Meeting. Held this year in downtown Dallas, the meeting was testament to the depth and quality by which ULI delivers on its mandate.

The meeting is four days of educational programs, keynote addresses, mobile workshops, tours, social and networking events. Without question it is an opportunity to take the pulse of what’s really happening in the broad world of real estate. From casual interaction with the nearly 6000 attendees, coupled with in-depth presentations on economics one quickly gains insight to the state of the industry. By this year’s measure, the operative description is ‘cautiously optimistic’.

This year the meeting took on a different demeanor from past year. The 2015 meeting in San Francisco strongly focused on how changing demographics and disruptive technologies (think Uber, AirB&B, Amazon, Facebook) are altering the world of real estate and provoked serious consideration of how real estate will respond. This year was characterized by presentations on topics such as social movements, art installations, food production, healthy living and other ‘soft’ subjects. While filled with interesting lessons, last year imperative to action was missing.

This had a certain irony to it in as much as the meeting took place shortly before the election. It was almost as if the attendees had been issued a request not to talk about it. Only one session dared to bring up the subject in a clinical discussion of economic forecasts. Ken Rosen, from UC’s Fischer Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, explained that the candidates’ positions being so ‘diametrically opposed’, were worthy of discussion. He predicted that the push for infrastructure programs by both would be a huge positive for real estate. However, he cautioned that a new administration would take some time to ramp up, particularly given the lack of shovel ready projects. He worried about restrictive trade policies while explaining that immigration is responsible for 50% of the US population growth and changed policies could become a major deterrent for real estate. This same panel predicted interest rates might rise to 2.5% in the next 2-3 years and that the next recession is still a few years off.

ULI is a wealth of resources. Recapping the meeting just scratches the surface of the volume of available information. Linked below are a few of the important publications that can be found on the uli.org website and that should be required reading for real estate professionals.

Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2017

Comprehensive predictions for the future are captured in ULI’s seminal publication, An annual survey of almost 2000 real estate professionals.

Consensus Forecast

A three-year forecast (‘16’-18) for 27 economic and real estate indicators.

The ULI Greenprint Center for Building Performance

Report on the state of sustainability practices.

Energy Efficiency and Investment Returns: The Critical Role of Tenants

Introduction to an important new initiative on how to incorporate energy savings into tenant spaces in commercial buildings. This program was introduced at the meeting and promises to revolutionize the way tenant spaces are designed and built out.