Founded during the great depression, The Urban Land Institute is one of (if not the) world’s largest nonprofits tackling real estate and urbanism. They have an all-volunteer board provide its members with access to events, regional and product councils and research reports. Their membership is comprised or real estate professionals, governmental employees and academics and the operate under the mission to “provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.”
They have a lot of chairmen and women come and go but their recent announcement of their newest chairperson, Jack Chandler is notable for a few reasons. First, he is the former managing director and chairman of BlackRock’s global real estate business in New York. BlackRock is known to be the world largest asset manager with $5.98 trillion under management and is headquartered in New York. They own large stakes in property firms and REITS like Boston Properties and Brookfield plus almost every other successful public company you have ever heard of.
The second thing that made Chandler’s new position catch my eye was his seeming affinity for technology. He founded Majesteka to “provide integrated strategic leadership and capital for emerging disruptive companies at the intersection of real estate, asset management, and technology.” The word “technology was used fifteen times in the Q&A he did announcing his new role.
Rather than strictly a networking group he sees ULI’s purpose as one of tech education. Here is one telling quote:
“I think what we’re seeing is that real estate is an industry that is just seeing the impact of technology in a meaningful way now, quite a bit later than a bunch of other industries did. The proliferation of new firms and new technologies means that every year the real estate industry is going to work differently than it has historically, and so I think the message is that this is just beginning. Everyone needs to be up to date and aware and cognizant that value propositions and business models and ways of running the business are most likely going to need to evolve to be competitive. This is the beginning of what will likely be a continued move in the direction of more technology getting embedded in the industry.”
He also has a few good gems like “disintermediation is real” and “all organizations have to adapt to remain relevant in this new technology-driven world.” With leaders like Chandler we might start to see ULI become more entrenched in the PropTech landscape. They could easily use their expertise in research and events to create resources for the real estate community (or at least those that pay for a ULI membership). If they do decide to take this route they will likely have quite a big impact due to their size and stature as one of the most trustworthy organizations in global real estate. I would welcome a larger role by the ULI in the larger PropTech ecosystem. They have been helping real estate professionals understand the changes in the property landscape for years with their annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report that they put out with PwC. If they take the same educational approach to technology trends then there will likely be a lot of great insight that would benefit the industry as a whole.