On January 31, at 1776 the ULI Philadelphia Young Leaders’ Council hosted not one but two engaging panel discussions that explored the breadth of ways in which cutting-edge technology shapes trends within the real estate industry.
Moderated by David Moos, co-founding Principal of Coscia Moos Architecture, the first panel explored how data, particularly open-source data, impacts the way we develop, construct, and interact with buildings. Panelists included Ryan Halpin, project manager for Whiting Turner, Alec LeFort, VP of Business Development for View the Space (VTS), and Stacey Mosley, Founder and CEO of FixList. More and more, companies are using open-source data– from property assessments to issued permits– to match prospective buyers or tenants with properties and develop more proactive and efficient management strategies. Panelists stressed that keeping ahead of the curve and leveraging available technology not only lends a competitive advantage to companies but has become an industry standard. When asked about up-and-coming technology that will transform the real estate industry, panelists cited drones, 360-degree process photos, bitcoin and Distributed Ledger Technology (or Blockchain), and virtual reality. Although there are countless benefits to the massive amounts of free data available at our fingertips, panelists also recognized the major downside of the open data movement: information that companies would traditionally keep private, such as weaknesses in their assets and holdings, can easily find its way into the hands of competitors.
The second panel focused on the role of real estate in Philly’s emergence as the next great tech hub. The three panelists who provided diverse and complementary perspectives on this topic were Pete Cramer, Director of Development at Wexford Science & Technology, Sara Merriman, Director, Business Development & Strategic Partnerships for Brandywine Realty Trust, and Ellen Hwang, Program Manager for Innovation Management of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology. The adjacency of UCity Square– a 6.5 million square foot mixed use innovation community and Schuylkill Yards (and potentially Amazon’s HQ2?) will create a critical mass of real estate intentionally programmed to spark innovation. The City of Philadelphia’s Smart Cities initiative will inevitably play a major role in positioning the City as a tech hub through its role as matchmaker within the tech ecosystem. With its many connections, the City plays an important role in matching development, technology and services to appropriate sites within the city and to deploy data-driven solutions to improve the city’s operations.
ULI’s Technology in Real Estate panel brought to light the diverse array of technology that shapes our urban environment faster than many of us realize and provided an exciting forum to learn about the some of the most inspiring initiatives playing out in Philadelphia’s real estate market.
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Rachael Griffith currently serves as the trails and open space planner at Chester County Planning Commission. Rachael graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.