Cameron Arial’s 2018 ULI Fall Meeting Blog

 In All News, Program Reflections

I was so fortunate to attend the ULI Fall 2018 Meeting in Boston and was able to attend many useful workshops and network with some incredible people! As a public official, I was so grateful to be able to attend and hopefully bring some of the valuable information and contacts back to the City of Meridian.

I was pleasantly surprised by how forward thinking and involved the entire programming was. The Creative Placemaking Dividend workshop was fantastic! It speaks well of the ULI and the development industry in general that we are trying to quantify the value of music, art and culture. This is a noteworthy task as we know intuitively that these things are valuable, if not essential to a quality development and a thriving community. The next level of this discussion will be how these intuitively valuable amenities (music, art and culture) translate to financial decision-making with banks and investors. In the past, much of the focus of finance has been on revenue/profit maximization and not necessarily on creative placemaking. I anticipate this may be a difficult mold to break, but it is encouraging to see the public and private sector going in this direction.

It is impressive that the development industry is interested in tackling difficult problems like sustainability and the impacts of severe weather on development and communities. I was encouraged to see that ULI is working with credit rating agencies, banks, and investors to better understand these risks and discussing what is to be done about them. The clear connection between development and municipal risks is clear. For example, a developer can only do so much to provide quality construction and insurance on their development regarding severe weather. The community they are working in may need to address critical infrastructure needs for the development to be successful and sustainable. The particularly concerning discussion was around how sovereign nations are rethinking the “acts of god” clause regarding backstopping natural disasters. In the future, it will be interesting to see how the rating agencies assess these geographical and weather-related risks in terms of municipal credit quality.

The discussions on the benefits of adaptive reuse were powerful and are a great way to develop new while paying homage to the old. It was intriguing to see that the market also values adaptive reuse and is willing to pay for revitalized and reuse developments. I was encouraged by many of the examples from Boston (redevelopment of old condemned churches into multi-family housing) and many of the examples from depressed inner cities like the RHouse development in Maryland. This speaks to the reiteration evolution of retail. As people have more access and ease via the internet to meet their shopping needs, these developments express what cannot be satisfied by the internet, which is cool places people want to be (food, entertainment, workshare, etc.).

The Leveraging Public Private Partnerships workshop was practical and informative. I enjoyed the group project that helped solidify what we learned and how to best approach these types of projects as a collaborative to arrive at win-win results. The 10 principles for Successful Public Private Partnerships is a publication I recommend all in the public and private sector read, as I will be using it on a regular basis. Steve, Corianne, A.J., and Charles were fantastic. PPPs are difficult at best and understanding how to navigate them successfully was priceless information for public officials. I thoroughly enjoyed the panel with Sarah, James, and Aaron as well. James’ comment about public officials needing to be a little humbler and that developers need to make a profit were important insights.

I also learned much from my fellow scholarship winners and the Rose Center veterans like Gideon Berger and Jess Zimbabwe and others. I plan on learning more from them and hope to participate in similar events in the future. Thank you, Thank you ULI and the Rose Center for this incredible opportunity!

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