A REAL Success
Hosted by SPIRE and the Real Property Law Section of the California Bar, the Real Estate and Law (REAL) Symposium on January 30th brought together an eclectic mix of business professionals and attorneys to hear experts on current issues – and the future – of the real estate industry.
It was the second year for the SPIRE/Real Property Section partnership for the REAL Symposium held at the Law School of Stanford University in Paul Brest Hall conference center.
Keynote speakers for the symposium included Stanford economist John Taylor and developer Michael Covarrubias CEO of TMG Partners. The first panel of the day addressed the office space use of technology companies. Panelists included key real estate leaders from Google, Twitter, and Facebook. The second panel addressed the ramifications of the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies in California. Panelist included stakeholders in the wind down of the redevelopment agencies including legal experts, civic leadership, and private developers.
“It was a real success,” says Kenneth R. Whiting, Jr.(’80) , Partner, Schiff Hardin LLP and a Co-Chair of the symposium representing the State Bar of California Real Property Section. With the second symposium, there was a big difference – and for the better, he says.
“The first time we did this, the attendance was overwhelmingly lawyers,” says Mr. Whiting, who is an attorney focused on commercial real estate. About eight out of ten at the prior symposium were lawyers and the remainder largely in real estate.
“This year we got much closer to a 50-50 split and that’s exactly what we’re striving for,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is create an environment in which both lawyers and business people get together … in a more or less equal blend.”
One of those was Sara Sanders (’94) who was a standout collegiate athlete who went on to a successful career as a competitor on the LPGA and then into real estate. Sara, First Vice President with SRS Real Estate Partners shared, “I’m in retail, mostly tenant rep work, but I just started a big program for AAA so I have a lot more office-oriented buildings that I’m selling and I’m also working on a bunch of deals in San Francisco. The symposium gave me a lot of excellent information on what’s going on in San Francisco with all the office leasing and the turnover, particularly in the South of Market area where my office is located.”
Ms. Sanders and others interviewed for this story say the symposium’s discussion about Redevelopment Agencies stands out.
“I never really felt I had a clear understanding of how all that was going to play out and where in the process they are now,” Ms. Sanders says. “That was really interesting and I felt the panelists were excellent. They were adversarial but friendly-adversarial.”
Ms. Sanders says she also learned how unique the Silicon Valley/San Francisco area is for commercial office space as companies like Google expand and demand different kinds of space use.
“It’s no longer ‘ring your floor with offices around the outside and put cubicles in the middle,’” she says. “It’s redefining how we interact with each other in an office environment. Due to the strength of the market between San Francisco and San Jose, things have really heated up again and it’s transforming the landscapes of some cities from a retail and office space standpoint.”
Why was it important to go to the symposium? Mr. Whiting takes a big picture approach in saying it helped prepare those attending for change.
“This is a time of real change in the real estate industry in California, both because of legislative changes in the redevelopment area and because of the vibrant tech economy,” Mr. Whiting says. “But it’s also a time in which there’s great innovation in Silicon Valley, the Bay Area and California.”
Attorney Hana Hardy (’00), says the speakers and panelists brought something for everyone.
“It was an excellent opportunity to get a current snapshot of what’s going on in the marketplace today and a sense for what the landscape looks like across many segments of the industry,” Ms. Hardy says. She points to discussions about the post-redevelopment world in California as local redevelopment offices disappear or morph into something new under pressure from the state.
The capacity crowd, the mix of lawyers and real estate professionals and the enthusiastic responses bode well for the future, Mr. Whiting says.
“The feedback from those who were either returning or new to the symposium was great,” he says. “Now we’ve got legs. We’ve proved we can do it twice and we’ve had a success twice,” Mr. Whiting says. “We’ve done enough to show that this type of event really can succeed,” Mr. Whiting says. “The momentum is there to make this an ongoing success.”
Be on the lookout for the REAL Symposium in 2014 and don’t miss out on another quality programing and networking event brought to you by SPIRE.