What Does 2020 Hold for CRE in Massachusetts? Companies Incorporate Real Estate as Recruitment Tool

By: Tamara Small, CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts

The following first appeared in Banker & Tradesman on December 29, 2019.

The end of 2019 marks more than 10 years in the current real estate cycle. As we enter a new decade, now is a good time to take stock of current market conditions and make predictions for 2020. 

Experts are predicting continued, moderate, growth for 2020. Nationally, investor appetite for real estate remains strong and active in all sectors – retail, industrial, lab, office and housing. National vacancy rates are not showing signs of oversupply, and banks are remaining disciplined and conservative in their lending practices.  

While slow and steady job growth is expected, trade wars, political uncertainty and a labor shortage pose the biggest threats to continued economic growth. Market fundamentals remain strong, but such threats should be monitored closely given their potential to dramatically impact the market. 

Access to Talent Drives Market  

The Greater Boston market had an exceptionally strong year in 2019 with record rent growth and tenant demand. Boston remains one of the top markets for foreign investment. However, while continued growth in 2020 is expected, threats exist.   

Construction and land costs continue to soar, weakening returns and potentially threatening the feasibility of new projects. In the third quarter of 2019, Massachusetts real gross domestic product declined 0.2 percent according to MassBenchmarks, while U.S. real gross domestic product grew by 1.9 percent. A labor shortage, which is only expected to continue, is viewed as the single largest threat to the Massachusetts economy.  

At the recent NAIOP/SIOR Annual Market Forecast, which featured leading real estate experts who provided an analysis of the 2019 statistics and predictions for 2020, the need for access to a talented workforce – and what this means for real estate – was a major theme.   

Historically, tenant space was viewed as a cost center by employers, but it is now being used to attract and retain talent. While WeWork’s business model may have been flawed, it did have a dramatic impact on tenant expectations. Whether it’s beer on tap, game rooms or state-of-the-art fitness centers, employers are now using their space to gain a competitive edge when it comes to getting the best talent. This can be seen in the suburbs as well as Cambridge, Boston and surrounding markets, and it will continue in 2020. This all translates into a rising need for new or renovated space and an average tenant improvement allowance average of $5 per square foot. 

Looking Ahead to 2020  

As we enter a new decade, the Boston market remains strong with opportunities opening up beyond the urban core. Limited supply and high demand for lab space are fueling growth. With East Cambridge lab vacancy rates now at 0.8 percent, life science projects are moving forward in Watertown, Alewife, Allston/Brighton and Somerville, as well as Dorchester, the Seaport and South Boston. Cambridge’s success will also create opportunities for well-located suburban assets, particularly transit oriented development projects with the right amenity base.   

Unprecedented growth is expected to continue in the industrial sector. According to Rick Schuhwerk, executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank, every $1 billion in online sales translates to 1.25 million square feet of new warehouse demand. The demand for “last-mile” facilities near high-density urban centers is driving up values. In the last five years, rents in core urban industrial space have more than doubled. In 2020, with online sales only expected to increase, vacancies will drop and rents will continue to rise. Spec developments are expected as well as a western migration of industrial space.  

On the housing front, according to Kelly Whitman, vice president of investment research at PGIM Real Estate, opportunities exist to upgrade and develop larger suburban apartments. Suburban apartment annual rent growth continues to outperform the urban, and, given changing demographics, a shift away from small units in the suburbs is expected. As the housing crunch continues, these areas outside of Boston’s core are vital to easing the pressure and providing middle income housing.  

On Tap on Beacon Hill 

Finally, while national economic and market indicators tell us that continued growth is expected next year, legislative and regulatory proposals at the state and local levels have the potential to significantly impact the market and should be watched closely. 

Housing: More housing production is needed to keep up with increased population growth. H.3507, An Act to Promote Housing Choices, is targeted at lowering voting thresholds in key zoning votes, allowing for increased production of housing. If it is not passed before the end of the legislative session, anticipate a continued tightening of the housing market, statewide. 

Transportation: NAIOP believes that a functional, accessible transportation system is key to continued development and investment. As area residents and business owners know, congestion has gotten worse in Greater Boston. The Baker-Polito Administration recently filed the Transportation Bond Bill, (H.4002), outlining a capital plan for addressing gaps in transportation infrastructure statewide. Other legislative proposals to address transportation are expected in 2020.  

Fossil Fuel Bans: A number of communities are considering bans on natural gas connections in all new construction, which will likely halt development entirely. While addressing climate change must be a priority, it is critical that policymakers employ achievable measures that are grounded in the reality of today’s technologies, without blocking housing production.  

The Legislature Is Hitting the Halfway Point: What Does That Mean for Commercial Real Estate? From Housing to Climate Change, Key Issues Are on the Table

The following column was published in the September 15 edition of Banker & Tradesman.

With the 2019–2020 Massachusetts legislative session approaching the halfway point, it is a good time to take stock of where things stand and what legislative proposals could affect the commercial real estate industry.  

The current legislative session began in January 2019 and will conclude on July 31, 2020. With more than 7,000 bills filed to date – and more expected – Massachusetts legislators have the ability to make dramatic changes affecting every aspect of society.  

As legislators consider proposals affecting commercial real estate and economic development, in general, they must also consider the economy for the year ahead. The Greater Boston market is currently viewed as a stable market for investment; and while vacancy and unemployment rates remain low, warning signs of a coming economic downturn are on the horizon.  

The pace of economic growth in Massachusetts has not kept pace with that of the nation over the past year. In the second quarter of 2019, Massachusetts GDP grew at a 1.4 percent annualized rate, while U.S. GDP grew at a 2.1 percent rate. In addition, in August, the 10-year Treasury yields fell below the rate on 2-year notes for the first time since 2007. This inverted yield curve has been an indicator of coming recessions for the past 50 years.  

This, combined with escalating trade wars and geopolitical uncertainty, highlight the need for careful consideration of the potential statewide impact of legislative proposals.  

While it is nearly impossible to predict how the session will end, legislative leaders have expressed an interest in tackling some significant policy issues including tax revenue, housing and climate change. Given the impact these issues will have on commercial real estate, the details matter. 

Transfer Taxes  
Revenue has been a popular word on Beacon Hill in recent months, with numerous transfer tax proposals filed. The bills all seek to create revenue for a variety of funding priorities, including affordable housing, climate change, education and transportation.  

However, the transfer tax is not the best approach to adequately address these issues, particularly since the revenue will be pegged to the real estate market. 

With anticipated market instability, these taxes many not serve as a stable funding source. If passed, they will increase the cost of housing and commercial development, which has the potential for negative ripple effects throughout the economy. 

Climate Change  
Given the environmental, public health, safety and economic development threat posed by climate change, legislation on this issue is expected this session.  

The House passed H. 3846, An Act Relative to GreenWorks, in July. It is a $1.3 billion energy and resiliency bill designed to offset climate change, creating a new grant program for cities and towns throughout Massachusetts to fund projects focused on climate resiliency. It is modeled after the successful MassWorks infrastructure program and builds on the Environmental Bond Bill passed in 2018.  

Climate change affects all residents of the commonwealth. Therefore, the burden for addressing this issue should be shared.  

Unlike transfer tax proposals, which only target a subset of the population and may drive up the cost of housing, GreenWorks is a far more equitable approach and should be a top priority for the legislature.  

Housing  
Finally, one of the most significant economic issues in need of legislative action is the current housing crisis.  

The supply of housing is not keeping up with demand, which in turn is driving up rents and home sale prices. An Act to Promote Housing Choices (H.3507) provides a clear framework for cities and town to encourage new housing production.  

The bill, which has the support of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the real estate industry, affordable housing groups like CHAPA and business leaders, allows cities and towns to adopt zoning best practices by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.  

Whether it’s senior housing or multifamily housing, countless units are never built because of the need for a supermajority vote. Given the broad support for this bill, the legislature needs to act on this legislation in advance of spring town meetings, where countless projects will be up for review at the local level.   

While these are only a few of the issues expected to move this session, it’s clear that decisions made at the State House over the next 10 months will have a significant impact on the real estate industry for years to come. NAIOP will continue to work with legislators to ensure that the economic impacts of legislation are considered and that Massachusetts remains a great place to live and work.  

Seaport by Foot: Walking Tour Recap

Every year, NAIOP takes its members on a walking tour that explores the latest real estate development projects in a specific neighborhood. This year, NAIOP members toured the Seaport, where they had the chance to see recently opened buildings and get an invaluable sneak peek of what’s to come. A still evolving neighborhood, the Seaport has seen incredible investment in everything from office and lab space, to residences along the water, and innovative retail. The district is 23-acres of mixed-use zoning, including 10 acres of open space, and has become a new hub of commerce, culture, and innovation in the City of Boston.

Icon Theater

The sold-out walking tour kicked off at the Icon Theater. The group got a lesson on the history of the neighborhood from David Martel of Newmark Knight Frank, and an important reminder that what is happening in the Seaport now is the result of over 30 years of work from visionaries, investors, and developers who came together to transform the Seaport into what it is today. Yanni Tsipis of WS Development discussed the billions of dollars of public investment, including the Harbor cleanup and Big Dig, that catalyzed the growth of the Seaport. He also discussed his firm’s massive, transformative development, Seaport Square, including the forthcoming 88 Seaport, a mixed-use retail and office project, and 111 Harbor Way, future home to Amazon.    

121 Seaport Boulevard

The group then headed to 121 Seaport, home to PTC’s global headquarters and Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Developed by Skanska, the project officially opened earlier this year. Carolyn Desmond of Skanska discussed the development of this 17-story, 450,000 square foot elliptical tower, which included the discovery of a long-buried ship during construction! Marc Margulies of MPA then covered the cutting-edge design of the PTC headquarters.  The building’s unique shape provided increased opportunities to build out a truly unique space for the offices, providing optimal light and functionality.  Attendees then toured the PTC office, including its incredible rooftop terrace.

Photo of 121 Seaport
Bruce T. Martin Photography 508-655-7557 btm@bruceTmartin.com 154 East Central St Natick MA 01760

Harbor Way

Outside of 121 Seaport, Martin Zogran from Sasaki discussed his firm’s work to create an expansive public realm program, which weaves together a unique fabric of residences, offices, shops, restaurants, civic uses, and hotels.The master plan is designed to encourage walkability and alternative mobility options with 39% of the total project area being exclusively devoted to pedestrian-only open space. As an example, a tree-lined pedestrian path, Harbor Way, punctuated by plazas and amenity spaces serves as the district’s cultural corridor and north-south connector between the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). Their work will bring a diverse mix of uses, pedestrian-oriented public space, and greater coherence and connectivity to the Seaport.

Photo of Harbor Way

EchelonSeaport

A quick walk across the street brought attendees to EchelonSeaport. Developer Michael Schumacher of The Cottonwood Group and Phil Casey of CBT gave an overview of this 1.33 million square foot community, featuring two condominium towers and one multifamily tower with 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor residential amenity spaces. The design, focused on the intersection of art and commerce through the lens of luxury hospitality, will include significant public space and promises to be a striking addition to the Boston skyline. With amenities for both towers ranging from pools to private dining rooms, EchelonSeaport promises to provide residents with much more than just a place to live.

Rendering of EchelonSeaport

The St. Regis Residences, Boston

Attendees then went to the former Whiskey Priest location, which will soon be the St. Regis Residences, Boston. Sean O’Grady of Cronin Development and Rebecca Eriksen of Elkus Manfredi Architects discussed the project, which broke ground in Fall 2018. The project faced a unique caveat in initial design – the property borders the Harbor on two sides. Rising to the challenge, the latest residential waterfront development in the Seaport promises to evoke nautical themes in every aspect of its architecture and décor. Currently slated to open in early 2021, the 114 residences will provide a highly curated experience, featuring signature design, dramatic views, an 8,000+ square foot bistro with additional terrace space, on-site spa, and other luxury amenities.

Rendering of The St. Regis Residences, Boston

Thomson Place

From there attendees went to the Seaport’s Fort Point Channel, where Jamie Carlin and Paul Connolly of Crosspoint Associates discussed the future of Thomson Place – a renovation and reinvigoration of one of the area’s historic warehouses. Scheduled to open in Fall 2019, the project will include office, retail and mixed-use space. Currently home to Trillium Brewing, Bartaco, and a new public plaza, the project brings new energy to the neighborhood, while preserving its historic character.

Rendering of Thomson Place

Networking

The group wrapped up the day at The Grand for a networking cocktail hour sponsored by WS Development. Attendees had the opportunity to chat with brokers, project teams and each other to wrap up a successful tour with a well-deserved cocktail in hand. Plans are already underway for next year’s tour. We look forward to seeing you then!  

NAIOP Joins Mass. Municipal Association, Housing Advocates and Business Leaders in Support of Housing Choice Legislation

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On May 14, NAIOP’s CEO Tamara Small testified before the Joint Committee on Housing in support of H.3507, An Act to Promote Housing Choices. If passed, the bill would enable cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing development by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.

Small testified on a panel with representatives from a coalition of groups responsible for permitting and building housing throughout the Commonwealth including Jon Robertson, Legislative Director at the Mass Municipal Association; Benjamin Fierro III, Counsel to the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of MA; Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board; Robert Brennan, President of CapeBuilt Development; and Kathleen Franco, CEO of Trinity Management. The group expressed their strong support for the bill, which would make it easier for communities to enact local zoning changes that encourage housing development.

In her testimony, Small underscored the importance of partnerships between developers and the communities. “Any successful housing development requires a partnership between the developer and the community to ensure that the project addresses local needs,” said Small. “The legislation preserves that partnership by requiring a majority vote, while making it easier for communities to rezone property to encourage more housing production.”

Throughout the hearing, mayors, housing advocates, and business leaders, including Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem, Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Smart Growth Alliance, CHAPA, and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable testified in support of the bill and called on the Joint Committee to report H. 3507 out favorably.  

NAIOP will continue to advocate for passage of the bill as soon as possible. Because communities enact zoning changes at annual Town Meetings, quick passage of this bill is needed to ensure that implementation of these important reforms is not delayed another cycle.

The Time to Act on the Housing Crisis is Now

This post was originally published as an op-ed in Banker & Tradesman on 3/17/19.

Apartment-InteriorSometimes data can simplify even the most emotionally charged and complicated policy debates. Housing policy is no exception to this rule. Recent data may provide some clarity on how we got to where we are today, as well as how we can begin to address the current housing crisis 

Today there are more people working in Massachusetts than at any other time in the commonwealth’s history. According to the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Instituteby the year 2040 the Massachusetts population is projected to increase by 600,000, with the fastest increase projected in Greater Boston’s inner core. Boston’s population is growing more quickly than previously expected, with 759,000 residents expected to live in Boston by 2030.  

As a result, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) projects Eastern Massachusetts will need 435,000 new units of housing by 2040However, according to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s Center for Housing Data, annual housing production is only about half of what it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Massachusetts permitting is 36 percent less housing than the national average (based on new housing per capita), ranking us 38th in the nation 

Words Not Enough to Address Crisis 

At the current pace of housing construction, the commonwealth will be more than 90,000 units short of demand by 2030  

At the same time, permitting requirements have become more onerous with local rules and special bylaws, making the development process longer and more unpredictable. Appeals frequently delay the start of a project by one to two years or often kill the project altogether. To complicate matters, construction inflation is at 6.5 percent in the Boston market – higher than the rest of the nation.  

The lack of housing is now approaching crisis level. The number of communities with median prices above $1 million has doubled in the past decade. As a result, the shortage of workforce housing is now significant threat to our economic growth. Business leaders frequently struggle to attract the best talent when competing with other states that provide more affordable housing opportunities.   

While tackling this issue will require a multi-pronged approach, the data show that this is, in large part, a supply and demand issue. Without more housing production it is becoming very clear that the state’s potential to grow its skilled workforce will be at risk.  

Many Massachusetts communities are now recognizing, some for the first time, they need to do more to encourage growth. The 15 members of the Metro Mayors Coalition late last year announced a target to create 185,000 new housing units across the region by the year 2030. It is a laudable goal and these communities should be applauded for their leadership. However, simply saying you want housing does not create itActionable steps are needed to achieve this goal.   

Fortunately, An Act to Promote Housing Choices (House Bill 3507), recently filed by Gov. Charlie Baker, provides a clear framework for cities and town to encourage new housing production.   

 Bill Helps Communities That Want to Change 

The legislation, which is supported by a broad coalition including the Massachusetts Municipal Association, NAIOP – The Commercial Real Estate Development Association and the Smart Growth Alliance, among others, makes it easier for communities to work with developers to encourage sustainable growth.   

The legislation allows cities and towns to adopt certain zoning best practices by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority. This would be allowed in situations where the zoning change will encourage more concentrated development including the adoption of 40R “Smart Growth” districts or starter homes, reduced parking requirements, accessory dwelling units and/or reduced minimum lot sizes.  

This legislation also includes a provision, added during the last legislative session by the Joint Committee on Housing, that would reduce the voting threshold for a local special permit to a simple majority. This would apply to multifamily or mixed-use projects with at least 10 percent affordable units that are near transit or in commercial centers.  

While there is no one silver bullet to solving the housing crisis, the supermajority threshold has long been a barrier for needed housing developments throughout the commonwealthThis legislation would make it easier for communities to rezone property to encourage more housing production  

During the legislative session that concluded in July 2018, the bill came close, but did not pass.  Since then, housing advocates, planners, developers and municipal officials have come together to support the passage of this legislation. On behalf of this remarkable coalition, we urge the legislature to pass this bill as quickly as possible. The time for action is now.  

Luxury Residence Report Misses the Mark

A report was recently issued from the Institute for Policy Studies that has attracted significant media coverage and editorials from virtually all of the local print and broadcast outlets.

Elisif_20161213_5514.jpgCredit: Elisif Brandon

It’s a great story: the ultra-rich, international money launderers have descended on the Boston real estate scene, crowding out poor and middle-class residents.

However, when you go beyond the buzz and dig into the content of the report, there is much to question. The report implies that owning condos through a trust or LLC is done to hide the owner’s identity. This form of ownership is actually a very common practice for tax, estate, and transactional reasons. Furthermore, while some buyers may choose to remain anonymous, it’s rather uncommon and to imply that anyone who does this is somehow laundering money is factually incorrect.

If these higher priced apartments or condos were not built, middle income apartments would not be replacing them — the economics just do not work with the current high construction costs. Furthermore, these buildings are already paying a tax devoted to the production of affordable housing, with a requirement to provide for at least 15 percent of the units built on site as affordable or a fee to produce those units off site. In addition, the city’s office buildings must also pay a “linkage fee” for affordable housing and workforce training.

Virtually all of these new developments are built on vacant land or in commercial areas where there had not been any housing, so they have not displaced existing residents. In fact, many of these developments have been the catalyst to creating new 24/7 neighborhoods.

If these condo owners are not here full-time to justify a residential tax break, so what? Do we want to discourage retirees living in Florida from living here for six months? Do we want to tell the penthouse owner, Michael Dell, to take a hike and take his jobs with him? I don’t think so.

The real issue is that it will take federal and state resources, communities working with developers, and overcoming NIMBY-ism and fear of affordable housing at the local level to truly address this housing crisis. Rather than drawing false conclusions and creating easy scapegoats, it’s time we all come together to find economically feasible solutions.

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Boston Business Journal on September 20, 2018, as written by NAIOP Massachusetts CEO David Begelfer.

 

BLDUP Spotlight and Q&A – David Begelfer, Reesa Fischer and Tamara Small of NAIOP Massachusetts

This post comes from BLDUP.com: BLDUP Spotlight – David Begelfer, Reesa Fischer and Tamara Small of NAIOP Massachusetts

Bldup_Spotlight_NAIOP_MA

Last week NAIOP announced that David Begelfer would be retiring after more than 27 years leading the organization. NAIOP’s Board of Directors voted Reesa Fischer, currently Chief Operating Officer, and Tamara Small, currently Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, to co-lead the association. Fischer will serve as Executive Director with operational, financial, programming and membership/marketing oversight. Small will serve as Chief Executive Officer with oversight of the organization’s government affairs and lobbying activities, public relations, and research. BLDUP sat down with the three industry leaders to discuss the transition and NAIOP’s goals for the future.

BLDUP: For our readers that are not familiar, what is NAIOP?

Tamara Small: Officially NAIOP is The Commercial Real Estate Development Association. Long ago NAIOP stood for National Association of Industrial and Office Parks. It was then changed to National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.  In 2009, the national organization recognized we represented so much more than industrial and office properties.  They did not want to lose the brand recognition that NAIOP had so they kept the acronym, but changed what it stood for.  We now represent office, retail, mixed-use, multifamily, lab and institutional space here in Massachusetts. We are the largest of all the NAIOP chapters at nearly 1,700 members.

Reesa Fischer: Our membership is made up of a variety of industry leaders.  While we are primarily (60%), owners, developers, and operators, the other 40% is made up of attorneys, brokers, and everyone else who supports the commercial real estate industry.  This variety of folks involved in the organization is also a big differentiator for NAIOP.  We operate based on a 3 legs of the stool principle, government affairs advocacy, events/education & networking.

BLDUP:  What is NAIOP forecasting for the Boston market?  Are there any trends you are seeing?

David Begelfer: What I see as our greatest risk going forward is probably not a recession, at least locally.  The Boston market is quite strong and we do not see a lot of oversupply or speculative projects.

A serious downturn does not look like it’s in the cards for the next 2-3 years but we do anticipate somewhat of a slow down because of our success. There are two major components exceeding inflation, land cost and construction costs (the biggest part being labor costs) and these two issues affect development.  We have a very tight market with regards to the construction industry and the number of people and subcontractors.  We also have barriers for entry for companies and individuals to move in from out of state because of the high cost of living.  We are seeing inflation in costs of land/construction because of our dynamic economy. Because of this, we are already starting to price out residential rent projects, pushing them toward condos.

Another aspect of this looming problem is the limited capacity of skilled unemployed workers that can fuel the market going forward.  We have relied upon immigration from out of the country for the last 25 years of growth.  Immigration is starting to have some cracks for various reasons (policy, political, practical economic).  We have concerns that the constant flow is drying up and Massachusetts has always had a problem with net migration out of the state.  The bottom line, as I see it, is that we are at a greater risk from our success than from a possible recession.

BLDUP:  David, What is your proudest achievement as outgoing CEO of NAIOP?

David Begelfer:  It is very hard to choose one particular moment, but if I had to take an overview of the past 27+ years, I’m very proud of the “secret sauce” of NAIOP.  From the start, the secret sauce was to integrate the top professionals and engage in our organization primarily in government affairs and advocacy.  It’s very difficult to handle the wide range of issues that we deal with, regulatory, legislative, judicial, policy and then within each of those baskets another array of issues from environmental, transportation, economic, building codes, all across the map.  The only way we have been able to handle this and provide expert feedback is the unbelievably involved professionals who work with us. This has allowed us to expand the breadth and depth of issues that we deal with and we have done it in a way that we can give something back. We can’t pay for this counsel but instead, we offer networking, connections, and leadership opportunities to add value to our relationships and provide a win/win for everyone involved.  The involvement and growth of volunteerism within the organization is the greatest success I could imagine.

Additionally, we have been able to bring some of the top people in the industry onto our staff.  One of the reasons this is a seamless transition is that others have developed expertise within our organization. It was very easy to choose Reesa & Tamara to move forward into the leadership of the organization.

Reesa Fischer: I feel it is important to mention David’s ability to embrace change.  Most trade associations are very stagnant and very conservative.  They do what they do and as long as it’s not broken they don’t fix it is. One thing we value at NAIOP (and it’s why I love working here) is that embracing change is what it’s going to take to stay competitive.  We like to think of our organization as a disruptor and we are always trying new things that people wouldn’t necessarily expect from a trade association.

David Begelfer: We are always looking to see what can be changed and done differently.  There is no complacency in this organization. People talk about having periodic strategic plans; we strategically think about our organization throughout the year.  That may cause more work, but it keeps us relevant. You can’t fight change you have to embrace it!

BLDUP: Government affairs and advocacy is a big part of what you do. How do you work to accomplish your advocacy goals?

Tamara Small: We have our eyes and ears on anything that would have an impact on the industry and we weigh in wherever appropriate – whether it’s legislative, regulatory or judicial advocacy.  The process is a very collaborative one.  We have over 200 people on our Government Affairs committee and a very active board of directors who provide input. This expertise allows us to provide real-world examples that illustrate the impact of any proposed changes.

As an example, we just wrapped up the legislative session which ran from January 2017 through July 31, 2018.  There were about 8,000 bills filed this session and we tracked hundreds of them, provided testimony, served on legislative task forces and met with legislators.  Clearly, no legislator can be an expert on every single issue. So, for those issues that are of interest to us, we provide substantive, factual information on how the bill would affect the commercial real estate industry – and often the greater overall economy. Through this approach, we have built strong relationships with legislators and regulators.

A good example of how NAIOP handles advocacy would be a provision of the economic development bill that was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 10. The bill includes language that will bring clarity to the development process for properties along railroad rights of way. The process had been a source of frustration to the development community for many years. So, through our government affairs committee, we drafted a legislative fix and worked for 8 years to educate lawmakers on the need for the change. Through the leadership of key legislators and MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack, we were able to work together on language that was signed into law. It will bring transparency and predictability to the development process – two things that are critical for any real estate project.   Talking about railroad rights of way may not be the most exciting topic, but it is one of those things that will affect important transit-oriented projects throughout the Commonwealth.

BLDUP:  What is the next legislative issue you will be focusing on?

Looking ahead, our three areas of focus will be: Housing, Transportation, and Climate Resiliency

We believe that climate resiliency is a top priority for the industry. It’s an economic development issue.  We were very supportive of the climate change legislation that passed this session. The bill that was passed requires the Commonwealth to develop a climate adaptation plan, complete vulnerability assessments at the state and local levels, and identify how the public and private sectors can work together to really think through what climate change means for the real estate industry and for the greater economy.

Another broader economic development issue that we are passionate about is the need for more workforce housing.  We were very supportive of Governor Baker’s housing bill.  We worked with all of the business groups as well as the Mass Municipal Association to try and get that passed in the final hours of the legislative session, but unfortunately, it didn’t make it. In my mind, it would have been the most significant housing bill in years.  We also thought it was very significant that we had such a broad coalition of support for the first time in 30 years of discussion around this issue. We are going to continue to push for this in the next session, which kicks off in January.

Our third big area is transportation. We will continue to advocate for an efficient, world-class transportation system in MA.  We need the type of system that allows people to get in and out of the city and to expanding areas with ease.  We are going to be looking at that in the next legislative session to ensure we can expand on existing capacity.

BLDUP:  Reesa & Tamara what are your goals for the NAIOP in next 5-10 years and David what would you like to see continue after you retire?

David Begelfer: I do think that NAIOP is going to continue to sit on the same 3 legs of the stool, advocacy, education, programming/networking.  Every member gets something from one or all of these areas.  We need to take a look at new technology, be proactive, be entrepreneurial, be thoughtful, and stay in touch with members and their needs.  We also want to offer new platforms for information.

One thing that is NOT going to be happening, is people are NOT going to be totally virtual. They want to meet face to face. That’s never going to change.  You will always need networking.

We have also taken a look at online learning and have seen a much greater demand for face to face learning but in a tighter timeline.  We are moving into podcasts.  That seems to be a very popular way for people to get information while driving, walking, or spinning. It’s hard to plan for the future when technology is changing so quickly.  Right now we have a partnership with the MIT Center for Real Estate that enables us to see what is on the cutting edge of the industry.  We just need to continue to keep an open mind.

Reesa Fischer: It’s about expanding the information and knowledge the we can provide the members and providing them with different options of delivery. People are just so busy and not everyone can come to a site event.  Some people prefer podcasts or live webinars.  We need to expand our information and methods of delivery to stay relevant.

We have also seen a huge demand for professional development skills that are outside of the industry.  The membership is looking to be able to provide skills for their talent.  Talent is a big issue right now, retaining and obtaining.  Learning professional skills while networking and engaging with people in the industry is a unique opportunity we can provide our members.

Tamara Small:  We are nothing without members. We look forward to working with our many member-driven committees and continually seeking feedback directly from the industry.  As Reesa and I transition to our new roles, we will be sitting down with our leadership and members to do our own focus groups in order to understand what they need. We look forward to growing and expanding with them.

Reesa Fischer:  Yes, we are very externally focused!

BLDUP:  What is the last book you read that you would recommend and why?

Reesa Fischer: The Road to Recognition by Seth Price.  Seth is a local guy who runs Placester and did a keynote at one of our marketing conferences.  The book is about building your personal brand which plays into a corporate brand: being authentic, setting up expectations, meeting expectations.  Detailing ways to keep you competitive either personally or professionally. It’s how I look at our organization so that we can continue to be important in the industry.

Tamara Small: Starting Small and Making It Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist by Bill Cummings.  It is interesting to hear his rags to riches story and his unbelievable drive and entrepreneurial spirit that have helped create his company.  The book provides history about the CRE industry but also an inside look at one of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve encountered.  He is also someone who has really devoted a good part of his career now to charitable endeavors and that is very admirable.

David Begelfer: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.  It’s astounding the genius that was there but not just genius: the genius was combined with unbelievable curiosity.  Almost anything he saw he wanted to look further into it. It’s frightening that a lot of what he discovered was never published and lost for hundreds of years. People would rediscover these things hundreds of years later.  He discovered something about how the heart works but it was not actually verified until 1970. He was way ahead of his time. It is a very fascinating read and again it was not just intelligence but a need to be entrepreneurial and also a great observer and creative.

BLDUP:  It is important to note that despite the CRE industry being primarily male, NAIOP’s new leadership team is female.  Tamara and Reesa what are your thoughts on this.

Reesa Fischer:  Just a little history, when I started here 8 years ago, the percentage of women in the industry and in NAIOP was significantly lower.  It is really exciting to see that women have very quickly been getting involved.  Our female membership rates have gone from around 10% up to 28-30%.

About 7 years ago we started an annual event, the Women of Influence luncheon. It sells out 200+ tickets every year with wait lists of people.  I think the pipeline is filling up as young women are starting to come into the industry and seeing there are a variety of ways to get involved, not just brokerage but in the development world as well.

Women are very organized and project management focused and very collaborative and that is what this industry is.  It’s about time women recognize they can actually play an important role. We are also more women in senior roles and running companies.

Our Distinguished Real Estate Award recipient this year is Related Beal, run by Kimberly Sherman Stamler.  Our President-elect for next year is also a woman so the top 3 levels of our organization will be female.  We are very excited to feel like we are following the trend and blazing new trails for women in the industry.

Tamara Small:  Going forward we will operate under a collaborative leadership structure which we found is much more common with women.  Reesa and I have worked together for so many years and we both have our own unique strengths so we are excited to continue this and take NAIOP to the next level.

David Begelfer: We have not said we want to have women run the organization, we have put into place the best people we have for the position and they happen to be women.  They are stepping up and being chosen to lead because of their skills.

BLDUP:  David, to conclude on more of a personal note, what are your plans for your new free time?

David Begelfer:  I have a lot of interests to stay active and involved in the industry.  I love to travel, play golf, those are wonderful things, but I don’t see that as sufficient to keep me alive and well and excited about my future. I’m looking into opportunities that will allow me to keep active and participate in this active industry. I am mostly looking forward to being a member of NAIOP and getting all the value that a member gets from being involved.