Economic forces now playing themselves out — dramatically, in real time — are challenging foundational assumptions upon which the real estate industry’s conventional wisdom has rested. Uncertainties abound. Business as usual has itself become untenably risky. Moreover, sustainability goals that redefine standards for building design and operation are inducing change that is certain to be transformational and enduring.
Since 1996 the Newman Real Estate Institute has pursued research into critical issues that affect the real estate industry and urban public policy. We also host public events to explore issues and share our research findings. Advancing the store of knowledge and insight that can inform decision making — particularly in one of the premiere real estate markets on the planet — is, for us, a core, and serious, responsibility. (Two examples of our work are sketched below.)
The research projects in our pipeline remain germane. (In fact, our forthcoming paper on development of the Gowanus Canal area is made all the more timely by the canal’s new designation as a Superfund site.) But in recognition of profound changes taking place within the industry and larger economy, we’re undertaking a searching reexamination of our research agenda, along these lines:
Hard thinking about these and other questions has prompted an innovation in our approach to research: formation of an informal Research Roundtable. Members, now being recruited, are distinguished industry leaders. Sectors drawn from include real estate development and management, finance and capital markets, brokerage, economics, sustainability, urban planning, and public policy.
This broad-spectrum representation, coupled with members’ immersion in the industry and their seasoned judgment, will help ensure that our research agenda is responsive to both urgent and long-term real-world needs. While not a decisionmaking body, the roundtable, in effect a select brain trust, holds the potential to contribute to an invaluable legacy for future generations. It will also facilitate the Institute’s engagement with the real estate industry.
So that our research will reach the widest possible audience, we publish research products online as free downloads. Selected products are available in hard copy and on CDs, too. Public events, and attendant publicity for them, are also important means of disseminating knowledge.
Most recently, at our high-profile, well-attended April 7, 2009, forum, Downtown 2020, members of our research team presented the Downtown 2020 report and an addendum, “Going Long on NYC: The Case for Strategic Investments in Downtown’s Bedrock Assets.” Representatives of the public and private sectors then offered their perspectives. The forum was hosted by our board member Larry Silverstein, at his spectacular 7 WTC building. (Each attendee was given a CD containing the report and addendum.) Audience feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive.
Our Sustainability Shoptalk series of public events fits squarely within our research mission in serving as a particularly effective means of discovery and knowledge sharing. We convene practitioners at the forefront of their fields to make formal presentations, trade shoptalk, and field questions from the audience. The series is proving a resounding success, and feedback from attendees is helping us identify and refine new topics for our research agenda.