An overflow of undergraduate and graduate students filled the room in the Pyle Center on Thursday, December 5 for the University of Wisconsin Real Estate Club’s last meeting of the fall semester. The meeting featured three real estate executives: Mary Pat McKeown, Managing Director at US Commercial Real Estate; Ann Morrison, Shareholder at Urban Interests, and Nicole Soleheim, Director of Development at Gorman and Company. The three women spoke about their experiences in the industry, and offered their predictions for of the real estate industry outlook in the future.
McKeown graduated in 1983 with a major in economics, and has worked in the real estate industry for the majority of her career and is currently based in Chicago. She spoke about the resilience and flexibility that it takes to work in in and industry that can be hit hard by economic downturns. Despite having experienced several real estate recessions, she says real estate has been a very rewarding and interesting career. McKeown spoke about her optimism towards the future of real estate, stating that the industry has many disciplined lenders and developers who are working to avoid the mistakes of the past. Overall, she emphasized her passion for the industry and how much she enjoys working with the people she has met through the realty industry.
Ann Morrison works at Urban Interests in Madison, and focuses on asset management and downtown housing. She spoke about the importance of being able to learn while working in the business, as most of her skills in real estate were learned on the job. She is also very optimistic about the future of the industry, but also highlighted current challenges, mainly the high construction costs and the labor shortages that can cause issues in project development.
Nicole Soleheim, a UW-Madison alum, spoke extensively about her work in affordable housing with Gorman and Company. She said it can be difficult it can be to secure funding for affordable housing projects but she views affordable housing as an incredibly rewarding and important sector of community development. When speaking about the future of the industry, she emphasized the effects that climate change will have on the availability of development areas. Specifically, she said the Florida Keys will be heavily affected by rising sea levels, and how this is already posing challenges for developers in the area.
As a conclusion to the panel, the group discussed which areas of the real estate industry they think will grow in the future, and what areas will reduce in size. A common consensus was that the retail development industry will face a reduction in demand for traditional retail stores, and will have to be flexible and innovative in order to appeal to changing customer needs. They also predicted a reduction in suburban office development, as we are seeing an influx of people moving into downtown metro areas. Overall, they have been seeing a rise in demand for developments that are located near metropolitan areas and public transport.