Innovation & the City: 2013 Fall Executive Officer Meeting Report

Posted on October 31, 2013 in Viewpoints by admin

Cities have always been the incubators of invention and progress. Greater population density offers greater opportunity for collaboration and specialization of skills and knowledge—key to innovation, growth, and wealth. If an area has no gravitational pull to attract bright, ambitious people, it can’t grow into a city. Perhaps this phenomenon is what Oliver Wendell Holmes. Sr. meant when he wrote in 1857, “The axis of the earth sticks out visibly through the center of each and every town or city.”

The relationship between urban innovation and real estate investment opportunity was not lost on participants at NAREIM’s Executive Officers Fall 2013 Meeting, held at Columbia University in New York City. The real estate of the modern city is at the center of our world, today and in the future. Real estate investment managers must understand the ways that cities are changing—which is to say, ways that society is changing—in order to advise their clients as to the best property types and locations for investment, as well as to develop innovative investment strategies and deal structures.

Perspectives on the impact of technological and social change were woven throughout the EO Meeting. One recurring theme was the shift of commercial activity from physical space to cyberspace; another was the effort by many cities to provide lifestyle and social amenities that attract recent college graduates, thereby setting the stage for employment growth. NAREIM members also discussed ways to attract more young people to the real estate investment sector. And, underlying all these themes was the recognition that disruptive forces are transforming our world. If the axis of the earth is moving, where is it going?

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