ULI Europe & National Councils

ULI Europe Chairman Jon Zehner
Jon Zehner, chairman of ULI Europe.

Since the 1990s, ULI has been active in Europe, establishing the ULI Europe regional office in 2001. Since then, ULI Europe and its national council network have continued to connect real estate and land use professionals across the continent who are interested in peer learning, industry exposure, the latest research and insights, and opportunities to contribute thought leadership toward advancing the Institute’s mission of responsible land use.

Today, ULI Europe’s membership has grown to include more than 2,600 land use professionals from 27 countries, representing a wide range of disciplines, sectors, and perspectives. In FY 2016, ULI Europe, its 14 national councils, and its five product councils continued on a path of developing innovative research initiatives, publications, and programming that facilitate knowledge exchange and sharing of best practices among members with the goal of developing cities and communities that are prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive. Jon Zehner, global head of client capital group at LaSalle Investment Management and a ULI global trustee, was appointed chairman of ULI Europe at the beginning of FY 2017.

density-report-coverDensity Initiative

With the world’s cities poised to grow by another 2 billion people by 2045, managing how they will grow sustainably is a critical question and a top concern for the Institute’s members. ULI Europe’s density initiative is a multiyear research effort focused on educating peers, the media, and the general public on the social, environmental, and economic benefits of developing compact, dense cities.

In FY 2016, the initiative released The Density Dividend: Solutions for Growing and Shrinking Cities, which discusses how cities can use densification as a tool to manage population growth or loss more successfully in the built environment. A joint project of ULI and TH Real Estate, The Density Dividend sheds light on how cities can adapt their building strategies for future cycles. Through case studies of cities that have densified with mixed results—some led to positive outcomes while others did not—the report notes that density can serve as a guiding principle for cities that are in various stages of their development—growing rapidly, bouncing back, or consolidating.

The report followed the FY 2015 report, Density: Drivers, Dividends, and Debates, published with the Business of Cities consultancy, which defines density, addresses public misperceptions of the concept, and identifies examples of well executed as well as poorly executed density from the past. The findings of the density initiative were discussed widely in FY 2016 through a series of presentations and forums in cities throughout Europe.

Members socialize at the ULI United Kingdom annual conference.
Members socialize at the ULI United Kingdom annual conference.

In partnership with the New Climate Economy, the flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, a third report planned for FY 2017 will explore the relationship between urban development patterns and financial and environmental benefits. The research will objectively evaluate the impact of investment in compact, connected urban development on investment returns for real estate investors, costs per resident for the public sector, and carbon emissions.

ULI Belgium Chairman Marnix Galle at the Competitive Cities Conference in Brussels.
Marnix Galle, chairman of ULI Belgium, at the Competitive Cities Conference in Brussels.

Competitive Cities

ULI Europe is deeply engaged in helping European cities identify and amplify their competitive advantages as well as pursue opportunities for regional collaboration. Several national councils have pursued this theme in their programming and thought leadership.

Published in FY 2016, Brussels and Antwerp: Pathways to a Competitive Future lays out a framework for evaluating city competitiveness and offers an in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Belgium’s two major cities: the capital, Brussels, a global metropolis that has been falling behind peer cities in terms of productivity and tourism; and Antwerp, a midsized regional port city that, while punching above its weight, has room to develop. The report was launched at the inaugural ULI Belgium Competitive Cities Conference, which drew more than 180 real estate and land use leaders from across Europe who participated in dynamic discussions on global talent recruitment and retention, infrastructure, brand identity and awareness, and other aspects of competitiveness.

Technological Innovation and Real Estate

Richard Meier, chair of the ULI United Kingdom residential council and leader of the build to rent research initiative.
Richard Meier, chair of the ULI United Kingdom residential council and leader of the build-to-rent research initiative.

ULI Europe has also deepened the real estate industry’s awareness of the need to stay ahead of technological innovation and embrace new business models to serve the companies and sectors that are driving the innovation economy. Disruptive forces such as big data, the sharing economy, and personal digital technologies have created a “new normal” for real estate; and the ULI Europe report, Technology, Real Estate, and the Innovation Economy, published in partnership with the Oslo Metropolitan Area, explores new strategies and approaches for success. Learn more about this report in Priorities – Driving Innovation in Real Estate. 

Build to Rent

For decades, the United Kingdom and London in particular have been battling a housing shortage and affordability challenges. ULI United Kingdom’s residential council has been committed to working with public and private stakeholders to identify solutions to the crisis, particularly in the private rented sector. The council has developed a body of research on the emerging “build to rent” sector, an institutionally funded and professionally managed asset class that can be scaled up to address the housing shortage and modeled, in part, after the multifamily sector in the United States. As part of its research, the council has toured several multifamily projects in U.S. cities to learn about approaches that can be replicated in or adapted for the British housing market.

Attendees gather at a ULI UK Build to Rent Conference, which launched a new edition of the guide for the burgeoning multifamily sector in the U.K.
Attendees gather at a ULI U.K. Build-to-Rent Conference, which launched a new edition of the guide for the burgeoning multifamily sector in the United Kingdom.

In FY 2016, the council released a second version of its Build to Rent: A Best Practice Guide, which includes new case studies and expanded chapters on customer service, cost and procurement, and planning. The council hosted a successful launch event for the report, selling more than 200 copies of it and leading ULI Ireland to launch a similar research project on build-to-rent initiatives in Irish markets. The initiative has been a successful driver of membership growth in the United Kingdom and is considered a model within ULI Europe.

National Council Development

FY 2016 saw unprecedented growth of and momentum in the national council network, which is committed to delivering the Institute’s mission at the local level. In addition to ULI Europe’s annual conference, councils in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, and Belgium held conferences focused on market trends and policy issues of national and regional importance. Each conference served the purpose of gathering industry leaders to share their insights, recruiting new members to the Institute’s networks, and bringing fresh perspectives to the table to discuss vital issues affecting the real estate industry and cities’ ability to thrive and prosper. Learn more about the ULI U.K. annual conference, ULI Poland’s Central and Eastern Europe Summit, and ULI Belgium’s Competitive Cities conference.

In addition, several national councils won grants to support member-led research initiatives from both the ULI Foundation’s Urban Innovation Grants Program and the ULI Charitable Trust. ULI Netherlands and ULI Poland received funding to explore innovation ecosystems and urban financing tools, respectively. Eight national councils received funding from the trust to explore the impact of mass migration from the Middle East, Africa, and other countries on European cities.

Focus on Diversity

The national councils also engaged members through discussions of strategies for inviting new perspectives into real estate and land use and diversifying the industry in terms gender, ethnicity, and geographical and professional background. Moving On: From Gender Diversity to Gender Equality, an event held in London in April 2016 and sponsored by M&G Real Estate, brought together ULI members and professionals, including ULI Europe Chairman Jon Zehner, for a conversation about steps that real estate companies need to take to promote women, create inclusive workplace cultures, and boost productivity and the bottom line.

Another national council initiative that addressed diversity was ULI United Kingdom’s adaptation and launch of the UrbanPlan educational program in schools throughout the United Kingdom. The program, adapted to reflect the norms of the British property development and urban planning sectors, was offered at more than 24 state schools throughout the country, with a special focus on targeting students from backgrounds underrepresented in the real estate industry. More than 500 students and 200 volunteer professionals participated in the program in FY 2016. Learn more about the launch of UrbanPlan in the United Kingdom in Priorities – Developing Excellence in Education.

Learn more about ULI Europe and its National Council Network.