Statewide Event Set To Hit GR

March 9, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Detroit-area Urban Land Institute find themselves coming to the west side of the state more and more frequently on business trips, and with draws such as Steelcase and the JW Marriott, the ULI feels confident the timing is right for the 22nd Annual University of Michigan/ULI Real Estate Forum to come to West Michigan. This fall will mark the first time the event has left the Detroit area.

“We have been tossing the idea around for two to three years,” said Shannon Sclafani, manager of the ULI Detroit office, but the organization worried the distance would cause a drop in attendance.

Stu Kingma, vice president, senior director of industrial services for The Wisinski Group, noted the forum’s decision to come to Grand Rapids helps the “recognition of the significance of Greater Grand Rapids as related to its position to the state itself.”

Kingma roughly estimates the commercial real estate industry to be well over the billion dollar mark in transactional volume for West Michigan.

The event typically draws between 300 to 500 developers, architects, students, educators and other professionals in the field.

Planners of the event may look to create a case study on the partnerships Grand Rapids has with lakeshore communities.

“There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the city,” said Sclafani.

The ULI, a member-supported nonprofit research organization focused on all facets of land use industries, is also contemplating setting up a satellite office in the Grand Rapids area based on growth of membership. The potential office would lead to an increase of events and research in the West Michigan area.

The dates for the forum are Oct. 15-16; it will be held at the Amway Grand Plaza. The event will host 12 speakers who are yet to be determined. The title of the event is “West Side Story: Grand Rapids, Grand Vision, Grand Region,” and while possible topics are still being discussed, planners are fairly certain the first day will focus on Grand Rapids and the second day on the West Michigan region.

Along with special speakers, there will be guided tours both on foot and bus around the Greater Grand Rapids area.

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