ULI Philadelphia Blog

Fall Meeting Recap: From an Etkin Johnson Student Scholar Perspective

As an Etkin Johnson Scholarship Winner, I was privileged to be able to attend my first ULI Fall Meeting which was held in Boston this year.  The city was booming with new development projects– especially on the seaport near the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center where the Meeting was held.  Touring and experiencing the transformed area which was once a sea of parking lots was a first-hand lesson on the potentials of collaboration and the amazing outcomes they can produce.  The week was a whirlwind of inspiring people, great lectures, and lessons on the trends and movements of our industry.

The opening keynote of the Fall Meeting was Theaster Gates, an artist and developer who used creative approaches to reinvigorate communities that are often forgotten by city governments.  His speech foreshadowed what I would call the key takeaways from the Fall meeting:

  • Creatives are needed in the development industry
  • Arts and culture are major drivers for reinvention and revitalization
  • We have the right to participate in the future of our cities
  • You have to start by looking at the everyday issues you encounter – and do something about it

The Human Experience session touched on the future of work.  Employers in the industry now put higher value on confidence, curiosity, and commitment.  New hires are expected to go beyond the task, focus on collaboration, and probe their challenges.

The A Case for Culture session again raised the point that culture change can drive solutions.  Not changing is not an option when society constantly shifts.  Today’s challenges include the isolation of expertise into silos, the fact that big ideas aren’t always accepted, and that one idea by itself isn’t enough.  We must summon our energies to get others on board and create places that bring people together.  We must interpret the needs of our communities, we must cultivate support for the changes needed, and we must activate – take the first steps and others will follow.

The Market Forecast sessions showed that the Industrial Real Estate sector is currently most attractive to developers and investors.  While the Multi-Family sector has performed well – issues of affordability are surfacing.  The staggering growth of international tourism is projected to stay consistent and keep growing.  Retail was said to present the most risk but is slowly being reinvigorated by creatives who are reimagining retail experiences around the nation.  Appointment-only services in retails spaces on the upper floors of high rises are popping up in response to the high cost of ground level retail.   Pop-ups are being created in unused retail space to be shared by entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The closing keynote was Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and bestselling author.  She posed the perfect closing thoughts to end the Fall Meeting.   Surrounded by a world of technology, speed, and financial expectations, we often forget to take the time to focus on our well-being.  Changing your mindset to be more present and more compassionate to those you encounter in your everyday life will not only improve your personal life but also your professional life and all of the lives you affect thereafter.

Thank you so much to the Philadelphia Young Leaders Council for making this trip possible!


Contributed by Ramune Bartuskaite. Ramune is a Designer at JKRP Architects, winner of the 2018 ULI Philadelphia Etkin Johnson Fall Meeting Scholarship, and member of the Young Leaders Council.

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