Talking real estate in the 'New Economy'

Mary Vogel, PlanGreen

Vogel is founder and principal of PlanGreen, consultants on walkable urbanism. She is a board member and advocacy & alliances chair of the Congress for the New Urbanism Cascadia Chapter where she helps to shape climate change policy. She is also a member of the progressive business alliance, VOIS.

The Oregon Chapter of the Urban Land Institute held a breakfast seminar last week based on ULI's most recent publication: "What's Next? Real Estate in the New Economy"

ULI is a national, even international, thought leader in the real estate industry. The advertised intent of the seminar was to examine how our region is postured to remain competitive in the 21st century.

But I had more short-term goals.

I wanted to know how ULI and local business leaders foresee the Portland region and the state getting out of the building slump — and consequent unemployment for planners, urban designers and other built-environment professionals — we have been in since 2007. From an examination of name tags, the audience for this event were largely lawyers, a few planners and a few commercial real estate consultants. I didn’t see any developers that I recognized — albeit my recognition field is limited.

After having a string of men from ULI’s national office in Washington, D.C., offer their wisdom over the past two years, it was refreshing to finally have a woman as keynote speaker.

Maureen McAvey started off her talk with the proposition: “This is not just another real estate cycle but a fundamental change.” She went on to make her case through a litany of demographic factors she claims are leading to new trends, for example:

• Gen Y is the largest generation in American history—80 million strong and still growing.

• The Baby Boomer generation is living longer —“If I retired at 65 and lived to my mother’s age—98—I’d have more than 35 more years to do what?”

I had been wondering when ULI would jump on the jobs bandwagon in a big way. This was the event.

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