White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate 2023 Conference

November 10, 2023

The White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate hosted its much-anticipated 2023 Conference, themed “Cities & Society,” at the Darden School of Business Nov. 10, 2023. The daylong event attracted more than 350 UVA alums, faculty, students, and industry professionals from across the country.  The conference kicked off with opening remarks from UVA President Jim Ryan and a captivating keynote address by Melody Barnes from UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy, who highlighted Richmond, VA, for the topic of “A Story of a City, Society, and Democratic Culture.” Check out a video recap of the conference.

Keven Lindemann, Executive-in-Residence of the Center, spoke to the audience about Center activities in recent months, ranging from Center-supported faculty research to alumni initiatives, and the many ways the Center has engaged with current students.  He then introduced Jeff Havsy, CRE Industry Practice Lead of Moody’s Analytics, who provided a capital markets update and moderated an insightful panel discussion featuring T. Richard Litton, President, Harbor Group International; Sharon Ann M. (Samm) Miller, President and Managing Partner, Head of Portfolio Management and CCO, Hillcrest Finance; and Laura Roller, Managing Director, CornerStone Partners.

A special tribute was paid to the late Andrew R. ‘Drew’ Sanderford, distinguished Associate Professor of Real Estate Finance at the McIntire School and cherished two-time alum of UVA. Under his stewardship, the Center, formerly named the UVA Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment, was launched in 2022, marking a significant milestone in the University’s history. During the conference, the University recognized Sanderford’s profound impact on the academic community and the field of real estate finance with the Distinguished Alumni Award, accepted on his behalf by his parents, Jay and Beth.

After the luncheon and tribute, attendees participated in an array of afternoon breakout sessions, each a deep dive into various aspects of urban and societal development, hosted by a mix of UVA’s proud alums and faculty:

Affordable Housing Investment: Impact & Opportunity: Jason Bordainick, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Hudson Valley Property Group, and Summer Haltli, Principal, FCP, explored nuanced capital-raising and preservation strategies, as well as innovative approaches to address the dire need for affordable housing.

Building for a Better Future: Implementing Climate and ESG Concerns in the Built Environment: Jonathan Colmer, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Virginia; Gilman Callsen, Founder and CEO, Rho Impact; Julie Manning, Global Head of Climate and Carbon Strategy, LaSalle Investment Management; and Jeana Ripple, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture, discussed the opportunities and pitfalls of implementing climate and ESG solutions in the built environment, where public interest, data requirements, regulatory environments, and carbon-neutral technologies continue to evolve. This panel was moderated by Mike Gallmeyer, Consumer Bankers Association Eminent Professor of Commerce, McIntire School of Commerce, and Interim Faculty Director, White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate.

Enhancing the Quality of Life for Cities and American Society: Implications for Policies, Practices, and Programs: Brian Williams, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy, and Founder and Director, Public Engagement in Governance Looking, Listening, & Learning Lab, offered a detailed exploration of efforts to enhance the quality of life for cities across America, through the lenses of public safety and community well-being.

REITs: How Public Companies Navigate Challenging Markets: Panelists Bill Ferguson, Chairman and Founder, Ferguson Partners, and Nick Joseph, Global Head of Real Estate Research Super Sector and US Real Estate and Lodging Team, Citi Research, shed light on the characteristics of REITs that are successfully navigating the markets (stock markets, capital markets, real estate markets), with a particular emphasis on the importance of leadership. This session was moderated by Keven Lindemann, Executive-in-Residence, White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate.

Advancing Equity: The Business Case for Expanding Opportunity and Building Resilient Communities: Jim Baek, CIGP Executive Director, Locus; Robert Byron, Chairman, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder, Blue Vista Capital Management; Johanna Greenbaum, Head of East Coast Real Estate, Amazon Web Services; Ryan Johnson, Managing Director of Real Estate (CAPC), New Jersey Community Capital; Caroline Nowery, Chief External Affairs Officer, Locus; and Keith Payne Jr., Founder & CEO, Champion Holdings, shared investment strategies that move the needle in creating more equitable communities. This panel was moderated by Ashley Mays, Chief of Place and Real Estate, Newark Alliance.

Future of Downtowns: Matt Birenbaum, Chief Investment Officer, AvalonBay; Reed Kracke, Partner, Asana Partners; and Hilary Spann, EVP, New York Region, BXP, examined downtowns and the challenges and opportunities they see in the near term and future.  This session was moderated by Suzanne Moomaw, Chair and Associate Professor, Urban and Environmental Planning, Interim Director, Real Estate + Design and Development Certificate Program, School of Architecture.

Leadership in Built World Innovation: Maxwell Bonnie, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Saltbox; Chase Minnifield, Founder and CEO, EZOS; and Bao Vuong, President and Co-Founder, Placemakr, discussed tech and innovation in real estate and the opportunities they present for future entrepreneurs. This panel was moderated by Zander Geronimos, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development, Metaprop.

The conference concluded with a Fireside Chat with Lawrence Kochard, Co-Chief Investment Officer, Makena Capital Management, and Tim Naughton, Chairman of the Board, AvalonBay Communities, who offered insights into private investments, diversification, macro trends, and geopolitical risk in emerging markets.

Special gratitude is extended to sponsors Greystar, The CoStar Group, National Real Estate Advisors, and Harbor Group International for their instrumental support in the event’s success.