Forum focuses on ‘realities’


    After the welcoming speech from ASTI Environmental President and event Chairman Tom Wackerman and before the closing address from Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder, the 23rd Annual Real Estate Forum will offer dozens of breakout sessions and roundtable discussions, scholarship and award presentations, keynote addresses, and even a couple of continental breakfasts and lunches over its two-day run next month.

    This year’s event will take place at The Michigan League on the University of Michigan campus Nov. 11-12 starting at 7 a.m. both days. The university and the Urban Land Institute are putting the event together, which was held last year in Grand Rapids.

    “Grand Rapids was the first year we ventured outside of southeast Michigan. The fact that they’ve stayed connected — you can’t say enough about that. It surprised and excited us that they wanted to continue to be part of the event even though the venue changed,” said Doug Brown, director of development for ASTI Environmental, which has an office in Grand Rapids Township.

    “I guess our mantra is what Grand Rapids exhibits every single day: a downtown walkable community that is safe and clean and healthy. By gosh, you’re teaching southeast Michigan as much as you are receiving. So that, to me, was the greatest eye opener from last year’s event,” said Brown, a 30-year industry veteran whose route covers the Midwest, but who spends nearly all of his time in Michigan.

    This year’s forum is titled “Real Estate Revolution: Preparing for the New Real Estate Reality,” which a reference to the state’s current economic condition and its effect.

    “We were talking about a theme in a committee meeting probably last February, when this particular title surfaced. It’s a reflection of the economic downturn and real estate having taken one of the largest hits. And coming out of this, there certainly are going to be some new realities about the way things are done,” said Don Taylor, director of development at the U-M’s A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

    “There will be new opportunities,” he added.

    The forum’s very first session will tackle that issue as ULI’s Chuck DiRocco will lead a discussion on the trends likely to emerge next year in the commercial field. Following that, a panel of experts will examine the current state of the financial industry. Mapping developments around transit sites will also play a key role in the forum.

    “We don’t think that transportation people actually think about what that implies for the real estate people. If you put a transit stop somewhere, it’s a natural real estate development location. And the real estate people probably don’t look at transit maps too much, and we’re hoping to bring the two of them together to make for some hearty discussions and some interesting and informative things for both sides,” said Taylor.

    In addition to Snyder, who founded Gateway Computers and co-founded Ardesta LLC, the forum’s speakers include Wayne Doran, Paul Schutt and Stephen Forrest.

    Forrest is vice president for research at U-M and his luncheon keynote address is Nov. 11. Schutt is a co-founder of Issue Media Group, a Detroit firm that publishes online magazines in multiple U.S. cities. He is the luncheon keynote speaker on Nov. 12. Doran is a ULI trustee, ULI’s 2006 Lifetime Achievement Honoree, and a former CEO of the Ford Motor Land Services Corp. He will speak on Nov. 12 starting at 1:30 and will share insights from his 50-plus years in the real estate business.

    Topics for the many roundtables range from how federal stimulus money can benefit commercial real estate to how to keep the “creative class” from leaving the state. The breakout sessions will examine how public incentives can drive private investments and will reveal “real” real estate opportunities, among many others.

    Two local experts will lead roundtables. The Right Place Inc. Vice President Rick Chapla will discuss how the city has successfully formed public-private partnerships over the past decade that have led to a number of major projects being built, such as DeVos Place. Builder and developer Guy Bazzani, also principal of Bazzani Associates, will share his seven secrets on how designing with green in mind can save construction dollars.

    A full schedule of breakout and roundtable topics is available at

    The forum will honor Bridgewater Condos LLC, headed by Robert Grooters, with the west side Real Estate Excellence Award for the River House condominium building, and Brookstone Capital, led by Karl Chew, with a west side Development-of-the-Year award for its historic renovation of the 124-year-old structure at 101 S. Division Ave.

    The west side Sale-of-the-Year award will go to Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce and The Wisinski Group for co-brokering the transaction that had the Roskam Baking Co. buy the former Steelcase Inc. plant at 5353 Broadmoor Ave. SE in Kentwood from Franklin Partners.

    All three presentations will be made Nov. 11 beginning at 11 a.m. Business Journal Editor Carole Valade will take part in the awards ceremony.

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