‘Back to the City’ will be theme of Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference

Sarah Wilson

Small Business Times
414-277-8181, ext. 129
[email protected]

After a decades-long exodus from downtowns into the suburbs, Americans are returning to the city. Why? What are the driving motivators for people to move downtown? What are the driving motivators for developers to invest their dollars downtown? What are the driving motivators for companies to move their offices downtown?

Furthermore, what types of commercial real estate development are needed in downtown Milwaukee, according to the people who live there?

The answers to all of those questions will be explored at the fifth annual Small Business Times Commercial Real Estate & Development Conference, to be held Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Italian Community Center in downtown Milwaukee.

The theme for this year’s conference will be “Back to the City.”

The conference will feature the companion SBT Commercial Real Estate & Development Book that will include exclusive research and snapshots of life in downtowns throughout the region, including Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine,
Kenosha, Port Washington and Sheboygan.

In addition, the glossy supplement will feature the semi-annual Municipal Development Guide and the annual SBT Honor Roll of the Prime Industrial, Office and Retail Sites in the region.

The annual conference is presented by SBT in conjunction with the Robert B. Bell Real Estate Program of Marquette University and the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin (CARW).

This year’s panel of expert speakers will provide insight about the rebirth of urban commercial real estate markets from a variety of perspectives. The panelists will include:

Jill Bensley, the founder and president of J.B. Research Co. of Ojai, Calif. Bensley is a consultant who provides research and analysis for commercial real estate projects such as arts, entertainment, cultural, retail,
residential, industrial, office, hotel, restaurant and recreational developments across the nation. She has expertise in conceptual and business planning for new urban entertainment centers. Her recent projects include
various consulting assignments for 20th Century Fox, TrizecHahn, the Irvine Company, the Koll Company, American Nevada, Gaylord Entertainment, Turner Sports and Entertainment, Sony Development, IMAX Corporation, Levy Restaurants, Dick Clark Restaurants, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Phoenix
Suns, Maguire Thomas and Catellus Development. Bensley is the co-author of a
recent Urban Land Institute report titled, “Revival of the American City,”
which examines 10 sociological factors that have created a “new American
zeitgeist that is reviving urban places and turning them into thriving
communities in which to live, work and play.” For additional information,
visit www.jbresearchco.com

Afshin Ghazi, the founder and president of The Ghazi Company, a Charlotte,
N.C.-based commercial real estate development company. The Ghazi Company is
doing several high-profile, cutting-edge development projects throughout
North Carolina, including the EpiCentre Complex in downtown Charlotte. The
company is expanding to other markets, including Milwaukee, where the firm
plans to build a $120 million mixed-use development with 200 condos, a
175-room boutique hotel and 100,000 square feet of entertainment, restaurant
and retail space on a two-acre city-owned parking lot at the southwest
corner of North Fourth Street and Wisconsin Avenue. The Milwaukee Common
Council has granted an option on the site to Ghazi, so the company can
further pursue the project and work to obtain tenants and financing for the
development. For additional information, visit www.theghazicomany.com

Tony Smith, practice leader at S. B. Friedman & Company, a specialized real
estate and development advisory firm based in Chicago. The company has
assisted developers, corporations, nonprofits, universities, health care
institutions, economic development organizations, transit agencies, lending
institutions and government agencies with development planning, finance and
strategy. The firm has worked with clients throughout the country, with an
emphasis on the Midwest. Earlier this year, Smith and the Friedman team
completed a strategic analysis of downtown projects for the Milwaukee
Department of City Development. Smith is a planner and real estate analyst
with experience in downtown, corridor and transit-oriented development
planning, tax increment financing analysis, real estate financial analysis
and market analysis. He also has assisted clients with public-private
partnership negotiations and deal structuring. For additional information,
visit www.friedmanco.com

Brian Vandewalle, founder and president of Vandewalle & Associates, a
Madison consulting company that has opened an office in Milwaukee.
Vandewalle has been a leading strategic urban planner, economic development
advisor and development consultant to the Upper Midwest’s communities and
developers for more than 30 years. His particular areas of expertise lie in
urban planning, urban redevelopment, and urban design. His visions of
sustainable, market-driven urban design are found in the master plans of
cities throughout the region. He has created various economic development
and downtown revitalization and master plans for Sheboygan, La Crosse,
Middleton and Cudahy, Wis., in addition to Moline and south suburban
Chicago, Ill.; Lansing, Mich.; Dayton, Ohio; and Waterloo and Davenport,
Iowa. He was instrumental in master planning and economic development for
the Milwaukee County Grounds Research Park and Medical Center, and he has
been hired to create a commercial real estate development vision for the
Milwaukee 7 project. He also has been hired by the City of Milwaukee as a
consultant to create its City Strategic Economic Development Plan.
Vandewalle is a licensed real estate broker in Wisconsin. For additional
information, visit www.vandewalle.com

The conference will be emceed by Professor Mark Eppli, Ph.D., chair of the
Robert B. Bell Real Estate Program at Marquette. Opening remarks will be
provided by Richard “Rocky” Marcoux, commissioner of the Milwaukee
Department of City Development, and Sandi Anderson, president of the CARW.

The annual conference is intended to provide insight for people and
companies with interests in the commercial real estate industry. More than
400 people, including Realtors, developers, brokers, architects,
contractors, subcontractors, environmental experts, engineers, financial
experts, municipal planners, attorneys and others, attended last year’s

The conference also will include the presentation of the Robert B. Bell Best
Public Partner Award to a local government official who has been an advocate
for commercial real estate development.