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Luncheon Summary

Hype or Hope? The Blockchain “Revolution” and WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE Commercial Real Estate INDUSTRY

Submitted by Nichole Kelley, Wells Fargo Bank

At the April 2019 CREW Charlotte Luncheon, we heard from Pax Sinsangkeo with Winstead, who concentrates his practice in commercial real estate financing, commercial mortgage securitizations, asset-based lending, and related real estate and financial services transactions. He has represented major capital markets lending institutions and real estate investment companies in connection with the origination and servicing of commercial mortgage loans, credit facility loans, and multi-asset portfolio transactions. 

Blockchain technology, hailed as the great disruptor of financial markets, enterprise management and data privacy, is a distributed ledger of data and/or transactions that is maintained on a shared network.  On a blockchain, transactions are recorded chronologically, forming an immutable chain, and can be private or anonymous depending on how the technology is implemented.  The ledger is distributed across many participants in the network; it doesn’t exist in one place.  A block could represent transactions and data of many types, such as currency, digital rights, intellectual property, identity, or property titles, to name a few.

As CRE companies consider investing in a multitude of technologies to meet their varied business requirements, it is important to assess whether and where blockchain can be useful as the technology has its own unique characteristics and inefficiency in processes.  Benefits of blockchain include the possibility of near real-time settlement of transactions, eliminating the need to rush a wire to meet the Federal cutoff time, or delays in due diligence processes (i.e. confirming zoning status, legal description of properties, and any data requiring third party verification).  Additionally, blockchain technology is based on cryptographic proof, allowing any two parties to transaction directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.  This means borrowers and lenders or any other parties can work directly with each other without the need for counsel, escrow agents, or other centralized authorities to verify documents and information; ultimately, this would result in reduced transaction costs and faster execution times for any parties involved.  In addition to the cryptographic security, a blockchain contains a certain and verifiable record of every transaction ever made, which such record is stored among multiple sources (instead of a central authority), which mitigates the risk of fraud, abuse, and manipulation of transactions.

So how can blockchain be used in CRE?  Blockchain is disrupting subscription-based MLS services by allowing brokers, title companies, and appraisers to directly provide information about a property. In addition, a blockchain network can issue tokens or some other data to symbolize real estate rights – this would allow real estate developers and promoters greater access to capital as an alternate form of crowdfunding, and allow investors more liquidity in trading those interests (i.e. a fractional interest in a real estate property) and easier access to real estate ownership. The drawback is competing data from multiple sources may affect consistency and questions around who is validating the data.  Another example of how blockchain is disrupting CRE is the incremental standardization of land deed records to be immutable, making it easier to record deeds and mortgages, verify title insurance, and clarify property rights that may have been historically murkey.  The con is obtaining consensus as to incorrect deeds or chains of title.

While blockchain technology has significant potential to increase efficiency and cost savings for CRE owners and provide greater liquidity and transparency to the CRE market, there are still a number of shortcomings to consider.  Blockchain is susceptible to human error; if there are errors at the beginning of the block that are not identified for some time, who is liable and how can it be corrected?  Also, because it is such a new technology, a lot of the coders and blockchain developers may not be familiar with real estate processes and not accurately track data stored on there. Ultimately, CRE companies who are approached by blockchain companies may need to adopt a “wait and see” approach and perform their due diligence to see if their business truly has a need to incorporate such technology.

To see Pax’s presentation, please click here.

How to Get What You Want and Have Fun Doing It

Submitted by Becky Cheney, Hamilton Stephens Steele + Martin

Our January luncheon speaker provided a highly informative overview and tutorial on negotiations.   DeWitt F. (“Mac”) McCarley, currently an attorney with Parker Poe, provided the crowd with an entertaining explanation of the two basic methods of negotiation: collaborative versus competitive, and discussed strategies for each.  Some of the key principles discussed were understanding your opponent’s true motivation, the importance of asking questions, and defending attempts to “nibble the deal.”  Mac drew on his past as the City Attorney for the City of Charlotte, where he helped negotiate some of the area’s most impactful economic development initiatives in the last two decades. 

Brooklyn: Past, Present and Future

Submitted by Diana Quarry, Womble Bond Dickinson

On January 15, 2019, CREW Charlotte’s luncheon program featured speaker Monte Ritchey, Founder and President of Conformity Corporation and Principal of BK Partners LLC. Mr. Ritchey addressed a sold out crowd, and spoke about the history and cultural significance of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Charlotte. Brooklyn was a predominantly black community that thrived as a self-sustainable town within a town. With vibrant shops, schools and places of worship, Brooklyn was home to some of the black community’s families from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and housed critical operations for the community, including Second Ward High School, Charlotte’s first high school for African American children.  Unfortunately, during the 1960s and 1970s, Brooklyn was razed in Charlotte’s first wave of “urban renewal,” displacing thousands of neighborhood residents and ultimately destroying more than 1,480 structures.

BK Partners LLC, a venture spearheaded by Mr. Ritchey and business partner Don Peebles, was selected by Mecklenburg County to revitalize the area with its Brooklyn Village development.  Mr. Ritchey discussed the future and vision for Brooklyn Village, a mixed-use development that will include residential units (including affordable housing), office, retail, community and cultural spaces.  Mr. Ritchey discussed the important role that community outreach and honoring the history of Brooklyn played in putting together the master plan and vision for Brooklyn Village.

CREW Charlotte 2018 Excellence Awards

Submitted by Stacia Neugent, GreerWalker

The CREW Charlotte annual awards luncheon took place on December 11. Two-time emmy-winning news anchor, Molly Grantham, emceed the event for the second year. Molly opened the luncheon by discussing her TEDx talk “The Real We Are.” Molly discussed the importance of showing your true self despite the role you have to play in your job or other parts of your life. As a news anchor, Molly has to play a role every night. She emphasized how in the roles we play there is often a focus on outward appearance but it is important to make sure others see the person you really are.  Following Molly’s talk, she presented the 2018 CREW Charlotte Excellence Awards.

The Rising Star Award” was presented to Kelly Steele of Narmour Wright Architecture. Kelly joined the Fundraising and the Community Outreach committees in her first year as a CREW Charlotte member. Kelly also plugged into CREW Charlotte with two new charities – Purple Heart Homes and GoJenGo. Kelly’s passion for the community will definitely make her a valuable CREW Charlotte member for years to come.

Wendy Hill of The Regus Group received “The Networker of the Year Award.” Wendy’s name is often seen on the Members Making Deals list for her continual referral of business to other CREW members. Wendy’s willingness to support other CREW members as well as the chapter as a whole makes her a great asset to CREW Charlotte.

The “Outreach Award” was given to Nichole Kelley of Wells Fargo Bank. Nichole organizes the Habitat builds for CREW Charlotte, speaks on panels about commercial real estate at her Alma Mater and has served on multiple committees and the board over the past three years. Nichole goes above and beyond in everything she does and CREW Charlotte has definitely benefited from having her as a member.

Shawn McMillan of McMillan Law, PLLC was the winner of the “Men Empowering Women Award.” Shawn intentionally hires and supports women in his firm. He is involved in multiple committees and on top of that his firm will be a Diamond sponsor of CREW Charlotte in 2019. CREW Charlotte is so glad to have members like Shawn who focus on elevating women in the workplace.

The “Deal of the Year Award” was awarded to Kim Marks of Progressive AE. Kim involved multiple CREW Charlotte members in the development of Barings global headquarters. Members include: Melissa Brown (Progressive AE), Amber Brown (Alfred Williams & Company), Cody Lipson (Balfour Beatty), Jeanne Boeck (Bentley), Scarlet Powell (Unified Technology Systems) and Emily Buehrer. Kim always looks for ways to include CREW members on deals and the Barings headquarters was another great example of this!

Stacia Neugent of GreerWalker LLP was recognized as the “Member of the Year.” This year Stacia co-chaired the Programs Committee, was a member of the Keynote Speaker committee and was a panelist at the April CREW luncheon on the impact of tax reform on commercial real estate. Stacia is valued for the multiple contributions she continues to make to CREW Charlotte.

The “President’s Choice Award” winner was Diana Quarry who was recently named partner at Womble Bond Dickinson. Diana chaired the committee for CREW Charlotte’s inaugural Signature Luncheon that feautured Erin Brockovich. Diana was an active member of the Programs committee on top of receiving multiple awards. Diana’s passion for elevating women will continue to benefit CREW for many years to come.

CREW Charlotte congratulates all of the award members!

A Fresh Vision for Charlotte with Taiwo Jaiyeoba, Director of Planning, Design & Development, City of Charlotte

Submitted by Stacia Neugent, GreerWalker

Taiwo Jaiyeoba, the Director of Planning, Design & Development for the Ciity of Charlotte, spoke to CREW Charlotte members and guests on November 13th. Taiwo spoke about a fresh vision for Charlotte – the third fastest growing city in the United States as of 2017. He made sure to emphasize that fresh does not mean new. As a top destination for millennials and seniors alike, Charlotte already has a lot to offer.

Taiwo’s focus is on how we can integrate the best of what Charlotte already has with some new and exciting elements. One of the biggest areas of focus for the City of Charlotte is transit-oriented development. With over $2 billion dollars invested and 2.2 million square feet installed along the blue line, Charlotte has already been experiencing a lot of this growth.

Taiwo recognizes that growth can lead to displacement and he wants to ensure that affordable housing is a key component in the continued development of the city. He also wants to make sure that as the city continues to grow the needs of all constituents are met. He envisions growth that focuses on equity instead of equality – an approach of meeting people where they need to be met versus providing the same thing to all members of the community. Taiwo’s passion and excitement are contagious and served as a reminder that this is definitely a great place to live and it will only continue to get better.

The Strengths of a Diverse Workforce and the Challenges in our Way

Submitted by Diana Quarry, Womble Bond Dickinson

Our October luncheon program focused on some of the most critical yet challenging issues our membership currently faces.  In addition to promoting this year’s Queen City in Pink campaign, an initiative targeted at raising breast cancer awareness across the Charlotte region, the luncheon program spoke to issues of diversity, inclusion and equity.  After a moving personal account about how inclusion – or a lack thereof – can have lifelong impacts from CREW Charlotte President Adrienne Bain, attendees were also treated to a powerful video about how diversity and inclusion affects everyone in the workforce, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or other variables.  (A link to the video can be found here.)   Members and guests then heard from Dr. Corliss Brown Thompson, Associate Teaching Professor at Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Education College of Professional Studies, Chara O’Neal, Counsel and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, and Fred Dodson, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership.  The panelists spoke broadly about what “diversity” truly encompasses, the differences between diversity, inclusion and equity, and the wide-ranging impact of implicit bias. Mr. Dodson also spoke to the importance of focusing on what makes a community unique when developing real estate in the area. The panelists also offered specific tips and strategies for how to improve diversity in the workplace, how to spot patterns of implicit bias and discrimination, and how to monitor whether an employer’s diversity and inclusion efforts are having a meaningful impact.

Girl on the Train: Exploring the Northeast Corridor Transit-Oriented Development

Submitted by Stacia Neugent, GreerWalker

The Lynx Blue Line began servicing passengers in March of 2018. It extended light rail service from uptown Charlotte’s Seventh Street Station to the UNCC campus in the University City area. The extension of the light rail has created great opportunities for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). This development was the focus of CREW Charlotte’s June luncheon, “The Girl on the Train.”

Alan Goodwin, planning coordinator and urban designer with the City of Charlotte, opened the luncheon by discussing what makes an area qualify as a TOD. The requirements are counterintuitive to other residential developments – there are minimum requirements for density and maximum requirements for parking spaces.

Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners, spoke next and discussed some of the benefits that the University City area has to offer. There are several strong anchors such as the Atrium hospital and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that make the University City area a prime spot for development. Darlene said that the focus is currently on making the area more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. This will be key in supporting the residential aspect of the upcoming mixed-use developments.

Jane Wu, president of Panorama Holdings, was the final speaker at the luncheon. Jane discussed her recent project, Blu at Northline. This upscale apartment complex is unlike anything else in the University area. It offers luxuries and amenities similar to those found in Uptown and Southend. Jane discussed how she wanted to do something that was completely different, and it seems that she hit the mark with the Blu at Northline project. The project is already exceeding expectations for number of leases and price per square foot.

One thing is for sure, the transit-oriented development occurring along the light rail is going to be something to keep an eye on in the upcoming weeks, months and years.

Signature Luncheon with Erin Brockovich

Submitted by Diana Quarry, Womble Bond Dickinson

On May 15, CREW Charlotte held its first Signature Luncheon.  The event, held at The Westin in uptown Charlotte, was attended by over 400 CREW members and guests.  The event began with opening remarks from Chapter President Adrienne Bain and a welcome from Kara McShane, Head of Commercial Real Estate Capital Markets and Finance with Wells Fargo Bank, the event’s Presenting Sponsor.  WBTV’s Molly Grantham then took the stage to welcome the event’s keynote speaker, Erin Brockovich.  

A dynamic and engaging speaker, Brockovich told the audience about her personal journey that led her to the position as a clerk at a California law firm that made her famous, and where she has been since.  She spoke about the critical role that her parents and education played in her life, learning to work through personal challenges and the value of determination and stick-to-itiveness.  Brockovich discussed her continuing role as an advocate for clean water in communities across the nation, and trends she is seeing on a local and national level.  She also discussed the guidelines of Realization, Assessment and Motivation as a tool for anyone in any industry or walk of life to take stock of who they are, what they have, and how they can leverage their skills and abilities to effectuate change in their own lives. 

Guests of Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo and Supporting Sponsors TH Real Estate and Northeastern University were also able to meet with the speaker before the formal program began for some additional remarks and an opportunity to chat and take pictures with Brockovich.

The Impact of Tax Reform on the Commercial Real Estate Industry

Submitted by Stacia Neugent, GreerWalker

In December of 2017, Congress passed the first major overhaul of the United States tax code in over 30 years. At CREW Charlotte’s April luncheon, Bobbi Jo Lazarus of Elliott Davis and Stacia Neugent of GreerWalker discussed with attendees the impacts of tax reform on both businesses and individuals alike.

Margaret Martin of CBC Meca opened the luncheon by discussing how tax reform was intended to provide simplification but this wasn’t necessarily the case for all taxpayers. Changes such as the increased standard deduction, lower tax rates and an increased threshold for Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) may actually simplify tax return filing for many individuals. However, for individuals with ownership of pass-through entities such as partnerships or S-corporations, this simplicity will likely be offset by the complexity of a new Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction.

For business entities, presenters focused on the newly created interest expense limitation and the increased three year holding period for carried interests – interests in a partnership that are often issued to investment managers in exchange for the services they provide. Additionally, owners of businesses will need to consider the change in the deductibility of entertainment expenses.

The presenters emphasized that there is still a lot of clarification needed regarding many of the new tax provisions. With all of the uncertainty, there are still several opportunities for planning surrounding the new tax laws. One thing is for certain, you should consult your tax advisor to determine the impact to you and your business.

You can see a summary of some of some of the most applicable tax changes here.

York County, SC on Top- Driving Economic Development and Jobs Growth

Submitted by Amy Massey, PE, Kimley-Horn

York County, located just south of the border within the Charlotte metro area, is going through tremendous population and economic growth. Ranked #1 in jobs growth in the US in 2017, the community is focused on having a prepared location for jobs, investment, economic diversity, and balanced quality of life. David Swenson, Executive Director of York County Economic Development, shared information about the County’s public-private approach to efforts in both industrial and office product that has resulted in recent announcements and expansions worth $100 million in capital investment and 1,200 jobs.

And forget what you thought you knew about Rock Hill, York County’s largest municipality. Stephen Turner, Director of Rock Hill Economic & Urban Development, shared that Rock Hill is embracing change and has allowed the younger generations to play a role in how they want their city to grow. Hannah Spruill, Marketing Coordinator, explained how young professionals are encouraged to get involved and take ownership in the future of Rock Hill. The City’s core is quickly becoming a place where young professionals and college students can thrive socially, professionally, and personally. They still have access to the benefits of Charlotte close by, but there are more and more reasons to stay in Rock Hill.

Both York County and Rock Hill also spoke about growth challenges looking ahead, such as workforce development and strategic infrastructure; as well as future opportunities, such as marketing, regionalism, and leveraging existing businesses.

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