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Luncheon Summary

A Conversation with Mayor Vi Lyles

Submitted by Anna O'Neal, Wells Fargo Bank

At CREW Charlotte’s October Luncheon on October 9, 2019, Mayor Vi Lyles covered a broad range of topics facing Charlotte including affordable housing, infrastructure, environmental justice, social equity, and the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program.  She also reflected on her years in Charlotte and her experience as an African American woman in a leadership position.

Mayor Lyles sat with moderator Stacia Neugent of GreerWalker and spoke with candor about the challenges facing the City and various paths to improve our great City, including reliable transportation, private-public partnerships for affordable housing, and taking reasonable action to combat climate change. She stated, “Charlotte is at its best when we have a dialogue that is about collaboration.”

Finally, the Mayor urged everyone to take action to be involved with the City of Charlotte, beginning with voting in the upcoming elections on November 5. She encouraged the audience to review everyone on the slate, including the City Council, and think about how we can move Charlotte forward.

The Rebirth of Resiliency: Implementing Sustainable Practices to Build Adaptable Communities

Submitted by Stacia Neugent, GreerWalker

On Tuesday, August 13th, CREW Charlotte hosted a panel on the rebirth of resiliency at Byron’s Southend. The panel featured Dylan Kirk, sustainability coordinator for Mecklenburg County, Kristina Held, partner at Insight Architects, and Zack Wyatt, executive director for Carolina Farm Trust. Emily Buehrer, landscape architect and project manager with Stimmel Associates, served as the moderator.

In a time when there continues to be frequent extreme weather events, designing with the environment in mind has become even more important. Resilient design is the intentional design of buildings, land, communities and regions in response to these vulnerabilities.

One of the topics discussed at the luncheon was the cost associated with “green development”. Kristina confirmed that there are additional costs associated with making sustainable choices, but they are relatively small on a percentage basis. It is also important to keep in mind that this references the monetary costs, but there are many other costs to be considered when making the decisions regarding development. You have to consider the impact to the land being consumed as well as the impact to the communities in which you are developing. The panel discussed that the “urban sprawl” effect is one of the biggest issues impacting the Charlotte region. The impacts of urban sprawl include increased air and water pollution, increased infrastructure impacts and reliance on cars due to longer commutes.

While we may have a ways to go to get to where we need to be, the panelists acknowledged that recognition is the first step and discussions like this luncheon are shedding light on this important topic. Emily concluded the luncheon with a powerful Dr. Seuss quote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better, its not.”

Coworking: The Past, Present and Future

Submitted by Sivilay Xayasaene, Gresham Smith

On June 11, 2019, CREW Charlotte’s luncheon program featured a panel of all CREW members who addressed the many questions surrounding Coworking.  The panel included Wendy Hill with IWG, Hunter Fleshood with WeWork, Mary Wilken with Insite Properties and moderator Virginia Luther with Savills. The luncheon was also CREW Charlotte’s FIFTH annual Bring Your Intern to Lunch.

The panel discussed where they see the future and evolution of coworking and agree that the trend isn’t slowing down. With market unpredictability, the need for flexibility in real estate has increased as companies of all sizes across industries are less likely to pursue longer term leases.  The ability to scale quickly globally is attractive to large companies and the ability to have access to amenities otherwise out of reach for many small firms makes the coworking solution attractive to most organizations.

Across the country, over the last few years we’ve seen a shift in power from employer to employee. According to research from IWG, flexible working is an expectation as a company offering, not just a perk. In the war for talent, having a flexible work environment can be a deal breaker. This approach allows firms to hire people where they want to live – extending their candidate pool for attracting talent, and sustaining retention which are paramount. It’s an ideal choice during good times as well as during a downturn.

Second Annual Signature Luncheon with Mira

“No one would exploit a child if there wasn't someone there to buy the services of that child.” These powerful words were spoken by award winning actress, Mira Sorvino. Sorvino was the keynote speaker at CREW Charlotte’s Second Annual Signature Luncheon.

On Wednesday, May 15th, Sorvino spoke to a crowd of 350 CREW members and guests about the atrocity that is human trafficking. Sorvino is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador who works tirelessly to combat human trafficking and slavery. She spoke about the work she has done and also about personal encounters she has had with victims. However, nothing was more compelling than the human trafficking survivor, “Katie” that joined Mira for the luncheon. "A lot of people have a stereotype of what they think a trafficker or a buyer looks like,” Katie said. “I want to blow that stereotype out of the water. I was sold to rich guys, poor guys, old guys, young guys, sold to some women. You know, you have the legislators, lawyers, cops, coaches, the guy that just lives down the street.”

Katie’s story brought many in the audience to tears. Although it is hard for her to tell her story, she is using it as a way to show others that human trafficking could be happening right in front of your face.

There are several organizations across our city and state that work to end human trafficking and slavery. If you want to learn more about how you can join the fight, you can click here. If you have any concern that a child you know is in danger, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

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.