Once each year, real estate professionals from across the country come together for one of the largest gatherings in the industry: the ULI Fall Meeting. One of the principal goals of this meeting is to bring together professionals from every sector of real estate and encourage them to engage in discussions with thought leaders about the most important trends affecting the industry today. Every year, over 6,000 people attend the Fall Meeting and it has become one of the best platforms for making new connections and disseminating new ideas. This year, the meeting was held in Los Angeles and a small group of Baker students, Baker alumni, and faculty were able to attend and participate in all that the conference had to offer. I was lucky enough to be one of those students in attendance and my experience at the Fall Meeting is something I will never forget.
On my first day there, I attended the opening general session at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This session was entitled, “Los Angeles: Much More Than La La Land”, and consisted of a panel of local real estate leaders who discussed the future of L.A. and how the city has changed since it last hosted ULI in 2011. This was my first introduction to Los Angeles from a real estate lens, and I was fascinated by the excitement and activity occurring in the market. This session was followed by several breakout sessions, and I attended two interesting discussions—one on cap rates and one on construction contracts. These sessions were a fantastic opportunity for me to hear how industry experts approach these topics based on their years of experience. I was also able to attend a very interesting discussion entitled “Building Equitable Cities” which served as the kick-off for a new ULI published book with the same title. This fascinating discussion tackled head-on the “audacious goal” of spreading opportunities for economic mobility throughout cities so that every member of society has a chance to move up. This first day was capped off by an exciting general session with keynote speaker and Pritzker winning architect, Frank Gehry. Gehry encouraged meeting attendees, particularly architects and developers, to work together much more closely to solve problems. To this end, Gehry is currently working as a volunteer to help develop a master plan for redeveloping the Los Angeles river. Gehry has a love for Los Angeles, the city he calls home, and it was both entertaining and inspiring to hear him speak.
On my second morning of the conference, I attended two very interesting breakout sessions. The first was a panel discussion addressing new trends and product evolutions in residential real estate. It was enlightening to see how different cities across the U.S. are innovating in the housing sector, and I was introduced to several concepts I’d never seen before. My second session that morning was an introduction to several of L.A.’s satellite cities. This was an eye-opening session for me when I learned that L.A. is really a collection of 88 separate cities, all forming a sort of constellation to make up one great whole. This was also a day for me to connect with many different people attending the conference. This included several Baker alumni, as well as an old coworker of mine from CBRE. The keynote speaker for the day was George Will, a conservative political commentator and writer for the Washington Post. Will spoke passionately about America and how all citizens need to come together to decrease our nation’s overdependence on big government. Though Will spoke of the fiscal ruin that would come to the country if things did not change, he was optimistic that we, as a nation, would find a way to work through our problems. His address, though not specific to real estate, certainly left conference attendees with a great deal to think about.
My final day of the conference, ULI and PwC presented the findings of the 39th annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report. This report, consisting of thousands survey results and interviews with of hundreds of real estate professionals, has long been known as one of the greatest examples of thought leadership in the industry. I won’t go into the details of their findings here, but for anyone even remotely interested in a career in real estate, this report is a must-read. Also on this day was the popular “Shark Tank” event, where two hopeful ULI members were able to pitch their investment opportunities to a panel of senior ULI leadership. This session was fun for me, as I got to see real professionals attempting what I have done so many times in a classroom during my years in the Baker Program. The final general session of the Fall Meeting was with keynote speaker Earvin “Magic” Johnson. This retired NBA champion is an incredibly active urban developer in Los Angeles, and he shared his insights and career experiences with an eager ULI crowd. He shared with us his newest goal of focusing on infrastructure projects, with the formation of a $1.3 billion fund focused entirely on infrastructure deals. His closing remarks were very inspiring and entertaining, as he wandered through the crowd pausing for selfies with many of the conference attendees.
Overall, I had a fantastic experience at ULI’s Fall Meeting. The insights I gained, the people I met, and the experiences I had were well worth the week of school that I missed… (just don’t tell my professors that!) I look forward to attending the ULI Fall Meeting again in the future and I encourage anyone looking to advance their real estate career to do likewise. It was truly a priceless opportunity to connect with the world of real estate.
I would like to extend a personal thank you to Toll Brothers for sponsoring my attendance at the 2017 ULI Fall Meeting. Toll Brothers has made it possible for numerous Baker students to attend ULI both this year, and in years past, and we sincerely thank them for their continued support of the Baker Program and its students.