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Dec 20 2011

2011 Kellogg Real Estate Conference

Students and real estate experts look to identify the next big opportunities in the recession-battered industry

By Daniel P. Smith

The Great Recession may have pummeled the real estate world, but Walton Street Capital managing principal Neil Bluhm notes that solid opportunities exist in the still-wounded climate.

“The deals are out there and they’re attractive, but they’re harder to find. You may have to sift through hundreds of possibilities before you find a good one,” Bluhm said during his keynote address at the 16th annual Kellogg Real Estate Conference.

The student-organized event at the University Club of Chicago on Nov. 2 assembled about 200 real estate practitioners, industry experts and students with a defined mission: to assess the pulse of the real estate industry and identify new opportunities.

In addition to Bluhm’s keynote, the half-day conference included a pair of five-person panels:

  • “Post-Crisis Debt and Equity Capital Markets,” which examined fundraising from both a project and fund-level perspective and offered a snapshot of today’s debt capital markets and lender expectations; and

  • “Demand Drivers and Development,” a lively dialogue among developers exploring today’s macroeconomic conditions as indicators of future development activity.

Doug Kiersey ’02, who moderated the event’s “Demand Drivers” panel, said gatherings such as the Kellogg Real Estate Conference provide substantial take-away value for professional attendees.

“We can all get so zeroed in on our own roles and asset classes that we lose sight of the bigger picture. I always feel there’s value in hearing from my peers and broadening my depth of knowledge,” said Kiersey, the president of Nevada-based Dermody Properties.

While the conference focused on the movement in the marketplace, it also gave Kellogg students insight into the industry’s needs and career opportunities.

“With this information, we can gain a sense of where we might direct our studies or our early concentration in the professional world,” conference chair Peter Chmielewski ’12 said, noting that the event also afforded students a great chance to learn outside of the classroom.

In his conference-closing keynote, Bluhm reminded industry veterans and students alike that real estate is still rooted in fundamental principles: the simple supply-and-demand rule of Economics 101 — and location.

“This is still an industry that demands common sense and enough guts to pull the trigger at the right time,” Bluhm said.

About the Author

This article was written by Daniel P. Smith.