CRE Midwest

The 14th annual CRE Forecast Conference draws in more than 900 professionals to hear from Rauner and market experts

The audience of 900+ industry professionals at the 14th Annual Real Estate Forecast Conference Jan. 20 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Each Real Estate Publishing Group forecast event has its own kind of personality based on the keynote speaker, our place in the real estate cycle and a variety of other factors. This year was no different. There is something electrifying about huddling up with members of a politician’s “advance team,” especially when it’s the Governor of your state.

Each Real Estate Publishing Group forecast event has its own kind of personality based on the keynote speaker, our place in the real estate cycle and a variety of other factors.

This year was no different. There is something electrifying about huddling up with members of a politician’s “advance team,” especially when it’s the Governor of your state. Then to hear his candidness, on topics ranging from the Chicago public schools and waste in the system to Michael Madigan and Rahm Emanuel, made it feel as if you were listening to the governor blowing off steam with a friend (which, actually, is what was happening).

It made for a great kick-off, just as Sam Zell and Deb Cafaro, Chris Kennedy, Stephen Koch and Howard Tullman did in years past. It was different than Zell’s take on the market, Kennedy’s business and civic sense, Koch’s “insider’s look”, and Tullman’s technology perspective. And it worked (it completely cleared out the exhibitor space; only Sam Zell did that before).

Can we pick a favorite? We’ll leave that up to you. And we’ll try to figure out where we go next to fuel the buzz.

In the meantime, take a look at some of the shots and take-aways from the 14th Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast. The event brought in more than 900 industry professionals, including more than 100 walk-ins from around the region.

In his opening presentation, Colliers International's David Kahnweiler welcomed Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to a crowded room of professionals that quickly became standing-only, waiting to hear the highly anticipated One-2-One between the two longtime friends.

As they took their seats, Rauner graciously thanked the crowd and REPG for having him at this year's conference.

Rauner quickly cleared the air about the coverage he's received from Chicago-area newspapers and Web sites. He said that about 50 percent of what the media put out isn't true. In a very candid conversation with Kahnweiler, Rauner discussed his stance on Chicago Public Schools, taxes, his contributions and the need for a government consisting of dedicated professionals with a strong determination to fight for what's right, regardless if they are Democrat or Republican.

When Kahnweiler brought up General Electric's decision to bypass Illinois for its relocation of corporate headquarters, Rauner said it was a tough loss for the state as he was all for bringing the big-name company to the state. Bringing in large corporations like GE to Illinois, he said, opens the door to a substantial amount of opportunities like employment.


In what later made for an interesting story, Kahnweiler asked Rauner about his disputes with Rahm Emanuel over capital gains.

"I’ve known Rahm Emanuel for over 20 years," the governor said. "Actually, we’ve been pretty friendly. He is actually smart, funny, hard-working and disciplined."

Kahnweiler then jumped in.

"Tell them how you met," he said.

And so it began. Rauner told the story of when he first met Emanuel sometime between the mid and late '90s. He received a call from Erskine Bowles, a friend and investment banker at the time who later went on to become Bill Clinton's chief of staff, asking Rauner to give advice to a young kid that was advising Clinton at the White House and who wanted to go into business and make money with hopes to run for office.

A young Emanuel approached Rauner and immediately asked to be partner at his private equity firm in Chicago.But because Emaneul had no prior experience with numbers or working in an apprentice business, Rauner wasn't convinced. He instead advised Emanuel to go into investment banking. Emanuel stormed off, only for Rauner to hear back from him 60 days later.

And from then and for the three-and-a-half years that followed, Rauner said, Emanuel was the best investment banker he had ever worked with.

"Relentless...Smart...Networking...He brought us two of the best deals we ever did," he said. "To say thank you, I brought him three great deals for his firm--IPO and M&A. Good relationship. We fight. We argue. I respect him and he respects me."

Deena Zimmerman, vice president of SVN, emcee'd the event from start to finish and even made closing remarks on the One-2-One telling Rauner that they share a lot in common.


State of the Market

The State of the Market panel focused on a wide range of topics, including the way technology is changing the way industrial facilities are built and how retailers sell their merchandise.

Anthony Pricco, principal and partner with Bridge Development, for instance, said that technology — and specifically Amazon — has changed the expectations of industrial users.

Today, tenants are increasingly seeking 32-foot clear heights, a change from just five years ago when 24-foot clear heights were the norm in industrial facilities. Tenants are also focused more than ever on automation, following, perhaps, the lead of Amazon, Pricco told the full-house crowd at this morning’s conference.

“Go to an Amazon building and you’ll see a three-story building in which everything is fully automated,” Pricco said. “And the Amazon formula is constantly changing. They are always tinkering with their models.”

On the retail side, technology and ecommerce continue to hurt brick-and-mortar shops, said Andy Hochberg, chief executive officer and managing broker with Next Realty. The holiday shopping season, he said, was a weak one for brick-and-mortar shops.

But there are ways to succeed in the traditional big-box and storefront market, today’s panelists said. The first step? For big-box retailers, it comes down to location, Hochberg said.

“If you have a good location, I believe it will still be filled,” Hochberg said. “And it will still be filled at a decent rent.”

There have been changes, though, many of them spurred by the number of people ordering products online. The rule of two, for instance, doesn’t always hold today. According to that rule, two retailers of the same kind could thrive in a market. Think Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens n Things. Today, though, it’s not always possible for two like retailers to thrive in many markets, Hochberg said.

“Now it is more of a situation where 1.5 or 1.6 of a concept can survive in a market,” he said.

Hochberg shared this classic joke to illustrate his thoughts on today’s retail market: There were two hunters running from a bear. One hunter asked the other, “How will we outrun this bear?” The other hunter said, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you.”

That, Hochberg said, perfectly illustrates today’s retail market: You don’t have to a superstar, but you do have to be better than your fellow big-box, brick-and-mortar competitors.

“There really is a dog-eat-dog mentality in retail today,” Hochberg said.


The Great Urban Migration

Panelists here discussed the great urban migration taking place in Chicago's metropolitan area and the affects it holds for downtown office demand, the residential and retail needs of the modern workforce and what it all means for the suburbs.

The conversation hit on a wide-range of subjects and highlights included: The frequency of companies entering and exiting the area and how companies are still very much attracted to the suburbs; Chicago being home to 30 Fortune 500 companies and millennials, soon to become the largest demographic group, are seeking out downtown to live, resulting in companies relocating to the city; The increase in transit oriented developments and how companies want to be closer to transit to attract millennials; Media coverage on the suburbs is almost non-existent, leading a panelist to say that "the suburbs don't have an absorption problem, they have a perception problem."


Breakout Sessions


Industrial Market

Experts on this panel took a close look at the 1.3 billion square foot industrial market. Topics included a close look at today's spec development, leasing and acquisition trends and forecasts.

Investment Market

Investment experts on this panel discussed who's buying and who's selling in today's market, and the preferred categories among investors.

Retail Market

The retail market has seen a resurgence of activity. Owners, brokers and developers discussed how retail has recovered and expectations for 2016.

Multifamily Market

Experts discussed today's growing multifamily market in Chicago and what it means for the future of residential and the suburbs. Though some argued the suburbs and homes are still desirable, others said renting is favorable among tenants. Panelists also discussed one of today's challenges for owners--Airbnb.

Office Market (Suburban & Downtown)

There's been a lot happening in the office market. Companies are relocating, growing in space, and seeking Chicagoland for their business, including many tech companies. Experts looked at the trends and challenges in downtown and suburban offices.