YL Small Group Discussion Series | State of the US Mall, Tribune Tower Redevelopment & Prop Tech
ULI Chicago’s Under 35 members met in February for their annual Small Group Discussion Series.
ULI Chicago members and industry professionals convened at the Union League Club to hear from our panel on “Why Chicago? The Investment Case for Buying and Owning Commercial Real Estate in Chicago.” The program began with a video, “Why Chicago?” featuring Spencer Levy, Chairman, Americas Research & Senior Economic Advisor, CBRE, also one of the panelists.
Moderator Steve Friedman, President, SB Friedman Development Advisors, began the conversation lamenting his love for Chicago. “Chicago is, in my view, the most beautiful city in North America,” he stated. He then posed to the panelists; is it enough to compete in the global economy?
Spencer began by comparing the issue of high property taxes, a hot button issue of late, to the other positive aspects Chicago can provide. Relative to other cities, Chicago’s balance of “live, work, play” cannot be beat. Additionally, “you cannot replace this talent base,” Chicago offers he emphasized. Levy believes this is what has and will continue to draw business to Chicago.
Andrea Zopp, President and CEO, World Business Chicago, stressed the importance of expanding economic development outside of the central business district. If we limit ourselves to Downtown, we are limiting our potential. World Business Chicago, in conjunction with the City of Chicago, is working consistently to untap that potential throughout the City. Discovery Partners Institute is one the newest companies to commit to coming to Chicago due to Andrea’s work. Andrea, who works with many companies in hopes they bring their business to Chicago, explained that “the challenge is if I don’t get them to the table.” People do not know the possibilities Chicago has to offer but once we get them here, we are more likely to succeed.
Brad Henderson, CEO, P33, shared about P33’s goal in working to transform Chicago into a technology and innovation hub, and agreed with Andrea’s statements regarding the importance of inclusive development and growth. He touched upon three main themes he sees as opportunities for growth: First, Chicago has the most fragmented work force infrastructure in the country; Second, Chicago is the 3rd best city of science in the country but now top 10 for turning that science into business; and Third, Chicago is a growing data and analytics hub, but it not fully utilized. Brad encouraged infrastructure for connectivity across sectors.
Spencer urged collaboration between university systems and the workforce, especially in the real estate industry. He also encouraged local growth, “credit vs. community,” weighing the financial ramifications versus the community impact and long-term success. Andrea agreed, however, explained the benefit that large companies may have to promote local economic growth.
The overarching theme the three panelists touched on was making connections. Steve questioned; how do we make these connections permanent? Brad reminded attendees that Chicago is one of the most densely connected cities in the world, “the biggest small town in the world,” Steve joked. Often times professionals work together at a civic or philanthropic level, but how can we work across sectors to do something bold together? Andrea concurred, encouraging collaboration and bigger thinking across sectors and across neighborhoods.
The session concluded with time for Q&A. Questions touched on the future and uncertainty of property taxes, of which Spencer ensures we will see assurance soon through Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s work.
The panel concluded with a lighthearted recommendation by Spencer to ban New York style pizza in Chicago; “Chicago has a lot of great things to offer; maximize those.”