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VOL. 126 | NO. 53 | Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sustainable Real Estate to be Subject of Conference

By Sarah Baker

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Planners of an upcoming conference are hoping to put Memphis on the map even more so than it already is.

The Conference On Sustainable Real Estate is slated for March 24 to 26 at the University of Memphis. The conference – modeled after a similar program offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – brings to Memphis internationally recognized leaders on sustainable real estate, land economics, land planning and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, construction procedures.

Grant Thrall, the University of Memphis Martha and Robert Fogelman Family chair of excellence in sustainable real estate, was brought to Memphis from Florida to plan the conference and compose the curriculum for the new classes the U of M began offering in January.

“Unless one has a sustainable economy and unless smart development decisions are made, then your urban environment will go into decay,” Thrall said.

The theme of the first conference is “Memphis: Global Hub City.” The keynote speaker is Christopher Leinberger, professor and founding director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan. Leinberger is a land-use strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author that balances business realities with social and environmental issues.

Other speakers include David L. Pogue, national director of sustainability at CB Richard Ellis; Dom Nozzi, executive director of Walkable Streets and facility affiliate at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Steve Guinn, vice president of Highwood Properties Inc.’s Memphis division; and Ronald Spahr and Shawn Massey, both U of M professors.

Massey is optimistic that the conference will develop from a local and regional conference to global conference. That growth starts will spreading knowledge.

"We have a traffic-oriented community. It's how we build in little steps to make our city more livable, more walkable, more sustainable," he said. "It's providing some of that knowledge so when our government constituents are making decisions, they will better understand. It's those decisions that can make Memphis that high-growth city that we know it can be in the next 15 to 20 years."

What makes a city sustainable is population and job growth, and the best way to create jobs is to capitalize on Memphis’ greatest asset – the hub. In fact, the Conference On Sustainable Real Estate precursors the 2011 Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition, hosted by Memphis International Airport April 11 to 13.

“The timing of the conference is opportunistic because the United States and the world is not yet aware of the global prominence that Memphis is achieving,” Thrall said. “Memphis is on the threshold of very significant growth, and those of us who’ve studied the topic are aware of it, but it has not diffused much beyond us.”

But Memphis’ assets extend beyond what Fred Smith created with FedEx’s hub, Massey said.

“Look at what Clarence Saunders did with Piggly Wiggly and developing the self-service grocery store and Kemmons Wilson with roadside Holiday Inns,” he said. “There’s a lot of innovative real estate that has taken place here.”

In order to support the branding of Memphis as the real estate town it is, it’s crucial the right choices are made with the Fairgrounds, The Pyramid, the Greenline and Greenway, and Overton Square, to name a few.

“A lot of people were not informed about the decision on the school election – it came too fast, all of the knowledge and planning didn’t take place – in real estate we’re going through the same decision,” Massey said. “It’s making sure that we put the right development with the right retailers with the right businesses.”

Registration is available at memphis.uli.org. Special hotel rates are available at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis. More information is available and forthcoming at www.conferenceonsustainablerealestate.com.

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