The ULI Europe Conference provides a once-a-year opportunity for European real estate leaders to stay ahead of the forces shaping the industry and the wider economy. The conference also provides a forum for Europe’s growing product council network to discuss sector-specific issues and for the Young Leaders Group and ULI NEXT affinity groups to network and learn.
The 2016 Europe Conference, which drew more than 500 top executives and decision makers from across Europe, focused on major trends influencing real estate: density as a tool for cities to manage growth, the need for sustainable approaches to growth, technological changes that are disrupting real estate, and record levels of immigration into Europe.
Lord Richard Rogers, the 2016 recipient of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development, gave a keynote address on the need to build compact cities. Dense, mixed-use environments encourage “dynamism and collaboration,” while sprawling cities require dependence on the automobile and lead to poorer environmental outcomes and a lower quality of life, Rogers said. A panel discussing the research findings of ULI Europe’s density initiative followed up Lord Rogers’s speech. ULI global trustee Dame Judith Mayhew-Jonas moderated the discussion on examples of successful density throughout the world.
Europe’s ongoing migration crisis was the subject of the opening panel with former SkyNews diplomatic correspondent Tim Marshall and Allianz chief economist Michael Heise. While hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria and other war-torn nations may be the greatest threat to Europe’s political and economic stability, such turbulence—rather than stability—is closer to the norm if one looks back on Europe’s history, Marshall said. Heise struck a more optimistic tone, pointing to recent reforms enacted by Italy, France, and Spain to stimulate growth and job creation.
Technological innovation and the sharing economy also were conference themes. Christopher Choa, chair of ULI United Kingdom’s infrastructure council, moderated a discussion of technology’s transformation of cities and its impact on all aspects of the real estate process—from financing to leasing.
Technology was also the subject of Mark Gilbreath’s keynote speech on the evolution of office space. Gilbreath, chief executive officer of LiquidSpace—known as the “Airbnb of office”—described the need for efficiency and flexibility to meet the needs of innovation companies. Technological solutions—from Liquid Space’s digital marketplace that matches companies with available office space under flexible lease terms to those that provide data analytics and visualization services—will determine the real estate landscape much more than buildings themselves, he said.
Several ULI members and leaders were responsible for the success of the 2016 ULI Europe Conference, including the following:
François Trausch, conference chair and ULI global trustee;
Dame Judith Mayhew-Jonas, ULI global trustee;
Anne Kavanagh, ULI global trustee and conference program committee chair;
Roger Orf, immediate past ULI Europe chairman and ULI global trustee;
Lisette van Doorn, ULI Europe chief executive; and
Greg Clark, ULI Europe senior fellow.