Home Building’s ‘Elephant in the Room’ … a manifesto from operations guru George Casey.

Without innovation, today’s home building business models risk extinction

by George Casey, CEO of Stockbridge Associates, LLC

Over the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of fall industry conferences: the Urban Land Institute (ULI) fall meeting in Dallas, a Vistage Construction Network CEO Roundtable in Boston, and John Burns’ Fall Homebuilding Conference in New York.

The latter was held the day after Election Day about two blocks from the New York Hilton. An interesting time to be in New York, to say the least.

I enjoy the mix of the conferences, because of the variety of viewpoints they provide.

ULI gave the industry view from home builder, master planned community developer, financing and technology perspectives. Big picture and long-view stuff with a national and international perspective. The Vistage Network CEO Roundtable involved construction and construction service CEOs from New England and covered both commercial and residential, but Northeast focused. John Burn’s conference was expansive and deep on home building, residential community development, finance, and demographics on a national basis.

As I processed all of the information, a recurring theme kept coming back, kind of like that “It’s a Small World After All” song from Disney World. Once you get it in your head, it never leaves.

The theme was that many of the major players in the industry are not fully recognizing and attacking one of the core challenges for the industry: the inability to generate enough housing supply to meet the current and even-greater-tomorrow demand that is on the way. The focus of many in the industry is actually on yesterday problems and solutions.

An inability or unwillingness to see the issues that are new and with us today and which lack focus or solution seems to be a blind spot for many leaders.

At ULI, a panel of home builders and community developers on the developer/builder relationship in master planned communities spent the bulk of its effort talking about demographic trends, the need for more product segmentation to drive incremental velocity, and the rapid introduction of ever-more sophisticated technology tools to target buyers, to get to know more about them, to show them Virtual Reality model homes, and, generally, how to drive more sales to accommodate the coming millennial demand that is now, finally, upon us.

Yet, the reality is that in many markets in the country right now, builders cannot keep production up with the current sales level, forget one that is significantly stronger. More sales in this environment equals extended delivery times and eroding profits (just look at the recent batch of public builder operating metrics for case studies) and, most likely, really ticked-off customers.

There simply is not enough skilled labor to build what is being sold in many markets, and the prospect of more labor coming in time to make any kind of short- or medium-term difference is not very bright. Further back in the chain, the existing skilled labor pool for construction is relatively old and retiring out at rates that are becoming concerning.

The historical response to this issue has to bring in immigrant labor (both legal and illegal) to fill this gap. However, in the current political environment, this solution seems taboo.

The reality is that if any of the existing non-working population really wanted a pretty good paying job, the existing demand in construction would have been filled long before now. It seems that the truth is that the hard manual outdoor labor required for site-built construction in the current business model does not fit the fancy or inclination of the remaining unemployed.

The logical conclusion is that we are stuck, most likely, with a continuing and worsening labor shortage in all of construction, whether it is residential, commercial, or the services to the industry.

I asked the panel why they were focusing on the generation of even more demand when it appears that the real problem is how to generate more housing supply in a world where the labor supply to the industry is relatively fixed. Not surprisingly, no one had an answer or had thought much about it (other than to complain).

In fact, it is a relative new and vexing problem.

In the last housing cycle (1991-2008), we filled many construction jobs with baby boomers who didn’t mind working outside and immigrant labor from Central and South America, the former Communist Eastern Europe, and, particularly Mexico. Before that, the non-college-educated blue collar population of the country plus immigrants provided the labor in every cycle before.

The structural immigration changes we have made and the relative demonization of manual labor for millennials has left the cupboard bare.

The bottom line is that some of the smartest people in the industry were back focusing of the intellectually stimulating, tech and demographic fun stuff of marketing, sales, and demand generation, because that was the solution when production constraints were minor in the past.

The fact that the current problem (structural supply constraint instead of demand constraint) is not the past problem, but a new one, had not garnered much intellectual capital for solution.

Meaningful and permanent innovation in production was not on anyone’s radar.

At John Burns’ Homebuilder Conference, that perception was reinforced again through many of the presentations.

Great and thoughtfully analyzed demographic data from John’s team showed a surge of demand coming for both the millennials finally starting households and baby boomers needing retirement housing. A rosy demand picture for the foreseeable future.

A panel of Wall Street analysts and bankers, however, when questioned on why home builder stocks had not appreciated since 2012 in any meaningful way, despite a growth in orders, closings, and revenues, hit on a root problem. They noted that the builders continually overestimated their deliveries, and their margins are continuing to be under pressure and are declining.

These are not good stories to drive stock valuations higher.

In some cases, stock prices are being buoyed by returning capital back to shareholders, rather than re-investing in the business. The stated culprit was that labor was in short supply, which drives up production costs faster than sales pricing and inhibits any reasonable ability to fully dictate deliveries.

Most of the home building participants in the room took this rationale as the non-adjustable norm. Same as it always was; same as it always will be.

When queried about innovation in the industry, new floorplans, the adoption of better CRM software, and better demographic targeting were cited. No one even tried to approach the issue of productivity, nor the possibility that the current business model for builders might be outdated. Not on anyone’s radar.

All I know is if I go into Delta’s faucet plant, Whirlpool’s stove plant, Ford’s F-150 plant, or Boeing’s airplane factory, that factories look significantly different than they did 40 years ago. Robotics, offsite sub-assemblies, lean manufacturing, just-in-time delivery, and other innovations have been brought into those industries in order to become more productive and profitable.

The businesses look much different in so many ways than a generation or two ago.

Yet, when I look at home building, the way the business is run and the way production is done have not changed markedly in that same 40-year period.

The house sales and production processes today are only marginally different than in 1960. Yes, the tools might be better (a pneumatic nail gun vs. the old 16 oz. “Thunderstick” hammer), but fundamental ways the business operates have not changed much.

Almost every builder uses exclusively sub-contract labor to site-build their homes. The training and management of those trades are left to others and most builders have little or no idea who will be showing up each day to advance the production of the homes they (the builder) have sold to a customer. Even worse, most builders do not even know whether the labor will show up.

Therein lies the risk and the opportunity.

If skilled trade labor is no longer as plentiful as it was in the past, yet demand looks like it will be considerably higher than our current and forecast ability to produce well into the future, perhaps someone should recognize the elephant in the room and be looking to fundamentally change the business model of the business.

Rather than buying back stock, shouldn’t the largest home builders reinvest in another way to create homes that involves less labor and more automation, and achieve higher productivity?

It would seem that the very existence of builders depends on how this question is answered and the value of their companies either ride higher or lower based on how they address the issue.

Shouldn’t Boards of Directors of home builders address this existential question before either the activists come in and turn the company upside down or market forces slowly eviscerate the franchise?

I wonder what the reaction in the marketplace would be to a builder CEO who, when asked the question regarding how they were innovating, had a response that sounded something like this:

“We recognize that this industry cannot operate any more like it has historically. The days of abundant and qualified sub-contract labor seem to be coming to an end.

We cannot afford to embrace a business model that thinks it is okay to deliver homes in 6-12 months and where we have little control over who builds our homes each day.

We have looked at other industries and see that, on our current track, we are destined to extinction in the face of a surging demand that our current business model does not permit us to meet at levels of margin and capital return that are acceptable and industry-leading.

We, instead have chosen to take a different path that will involve some short term pain, but will position us as a leader in the new housing economy.

We are going to take a meaningful portion of our cashflow and, rather than reinvest it back in land or stock buy-backs, we will invest in new methods of producing our homes, using a high degree of automation, new materials, and a dedicated workforce consisting of full-time team-members of our company.

We will use the best people and ideas from other manufacturers and home builders from around the world to help drive this innovation. Our belief is that we can deliver homes in under 60 days from the day the customer signs a contract with us, and at net margins and returns on assets of over twice what we achieve currently.

Even more, we are choosing to reorganize our company to continue to invest in the research and development needed to drive the continuous innovation and improvement that we see will be needed to keep us at the top of the competitive heap.

We will be innovative in our use of technology, materials, business systems, and people in this drive.

We know that, if we do not make these fundamental changes, we stand a high risk of extinction, and we will not ignore that fact.”

Wouldn’t that be interesting?

If our current crop of home builders cannot make that speech, my sense is there are others from outside of the industry or outside of the country who see this opportunity and will take it and run with it.

If this elephant of a question is not addressed, the current crop of builders risk a fate similar to those companies in other industries who failed to see the changes that drove new companies like Walmart, Amazon, and Apple to dominate spaces where more established companies had operated. Those companies that did not change with the times and environment ultimately became either extinct or food for the new.

So, if leaders and directors of current home builders continue to work in the old business model and on innovations with a small “i” and a 3-font, rather than innovations with a capital “I” and a 128-font, they will be truly picking up peanuts while the elephants run wild, and, (to mix metaphors) risk becoming the extinct dinosaurs more quickly than they realize.

Originally published in Builder Online on November 28, 2016 and can be found at http://www.builderonline.com/builder-100/strategy/home-buildings-elephant-in-the-room_o?utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=Article&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BB_112816%20(1)&he=acb26dfc22037f8627bb26d072d9871f0bba5969

“The Elephant in the Room 2.0” coming next week! 

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Maine Real Estate & Development Association Awards Top 10 Notable Projects of 2016

The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recently announced the recipients of its 2016 Notable Projects Awards at its Annual Real Estate Spring Conference. This year’s event, titled “’YIMBY’ism: YES in my Backyard – Why Development is Good” was held on May 18 in South Portland.

Each year, MEREDA recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. Spread across the state, each of these projects aided in Maine’s economic growth, while also embodying MEREDA’s belief in responsible development. These projects not only exemplify best practices in the industry, and also involve a significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

“We are blown away by the vision and integrity demonstrated by developers across Maine, so much so that, for the first time ever, we expanded the list in true David Letterman style to a TOP TEN,” noted Paul Peck, President, MEREDA Board of Directors and LWS Investments/Drummond & Drummond, LLP.

Selections were made based upon criteria including: environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s Top 10 Most Notable Projects of 2016 were awarded to:

  • Forefront Partners, for Brick North at Thompson’s Point in Portland
  • Avesta Housing’s Ridgewood at Village Square in Gorham
  • Community Housing of Maine’s Village Centre in Brewer
  • Anew Development’s Meetinghouse Lofts Condominiums in South Portland
  • Southern Maine Affordable Housing and Biddeford Housing for their collaborative effort at Mission Hill in Biddeford
  • Avesta Housing for the Young Street Apartments in South Berwick
  • The Szanton Company for The Lofts at Saco Falls in Biddeford
  • Sebasticook River Partners’ Sebasticook River Apartments in Newport
  • Priority Real Estate Group’s Wayfair at Brunswick Landing, and
  • Risbara Properties, LLC, for Blue Spruce Farm Apartments, Waterside Apartments and Island View Apartments, all in Westbrook


Representatives from each of the above projects were on hand at the event to receive their award.  For more information about each of these impressive projects, please click here: http://ow.ly/YkQ530cceFr

Throughout the year we’ll also provide an up-close look at each of these notable commercial development projects in multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider.  Stay tuned!

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YIMBYers extol the virtues of development

MEREDA conference offers big picture perspective of Why Development is Good

2017-06-06_REI_LGThe Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), the state’s leading organization advocating for responsible real estate development, convened a conference last month entitled, “Yes-In-My-Backyard: Why Development is Good.”

“Renewed interest in Maine’s cities and downtowns have placed pressure on communities to build in unprecedented ways. Recognizing the crippling effect of NIMBY, or ‘not in my backyard,’ ways of thinking,” said MEREDA president Paul Peck in announcing the event. “The ‘yes in my backyard,’ or ‘YIMBY,’ movement is an overt counterargument to oppositional mindsets – and is gaining traction quickly.”

Jesse Kanson-Benanav, a Boston area YIMBY pioneer keynoted the conference. He is an instrumental leader in the movement, and set the stage for a discussion about how to move development forward, with an update on the present status of pro-growth efforts and implications for the future of communities.

Kanson-Benanav asserted that development:

– Moderates and/or stabilize housing prices,

– Increases economic stability, and

– Improves the general diversity of communities, both from a social and economic perspective.

He came armed with real-world, pro-density examples. For instance, household size is decreasing across the globe, with families choosing to have fewer children and with less multigenerational living situations. In the U.S., in 1950, the average household was 3.37 people. Now it’s 2.6. Even if populations don’t grow overall, the amount of housing needed in any given community to accommodate the same number of residents is growing year-over-year.

“When you build at lower densities, you have to take farms and open spaces and turn them into lots,” he continued, suggesting that density is better for social integration and better for the environment. “Suburban expansion combined with large lots leads to exclusionary land use practices, with fewer people and increased pricing.”

Local experts augmented the conversation. James Brady, visionary of the Press Hotel and the Portland Company redevelopment in the East End, Jeff Levine of the City of Portland, Dana Totman of Avesta Housing, and Patrick Venne of Redwood Development Consulting each spoke about their local experiences, as part of a panel moderated by Elizabeth Boepple of BCM Environmental & Land Law.

Venne provided real-world examples of how convening community conversations and cultivating stakeholder questions and support is worthwhile, even before filing an application with the local planning department. “Moderating the design ahead of time can be more powerful,” he said.

Totman advocated that planning boards and planning departments take a more proactive approach to updating zoning ordinances, suggesting that those folks are the subject matter experts, but that a slow reaction to trends or best practices can mean that the city council or other entity is forced to interfere.

Levine honed in on the evergreen issue of parking, which is almost always controversial when any development is proposed. He said, when a developer gets “a curb cut, you basically take two public parking spaces and privatize them,” and therefore advocated that municipal entities relax minimums and let market decide. “Planners are libertarians when it comes to parking,” he concluded.

Some of the discussion was tactical in nature, for instance the interplay between a municipal comprehensive plan and zoning codes, while other conversation will double-down on the role of development vis-a-vis school funding models, local employment opportunities, and other quality of life benefits.

“Our goal was to offer a big picture perspective of how development is good for our collective future, and the rationale around smart growth development,” said Brian Curley, president of PDT architects and vice president of MEREDA. “Attendees were armed with tools about how to get more people to think globally about development, and what it means for the real estate industry more broadly.”

All presentations can be downloaded at: http://www.mereda.org/eventdetail.php?ID=701.

For more information about MEREDA and upcoming events, visit MEREDA.org.

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Maine Real Estate & Development Association Elects Josh Fifield to its Board of Directors

Josh FifieldJosh Fifield, a Senior Account Executive in the Business Insurance Department of Clark Insurance has been elected to the board of directors of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers.

Since joining Clark Insurance, a 100 percent employee-owned independent agency, Josh has built a reputation for understanding the complexities of real estate development to help insure large affordable housing projects, commercial developments and industrial properties, including insurance solutions for state and federal historic & LIHTC tax credits.

A Maine native and graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Josh has been a volunteer on MEREDA’s Marketing and Membership Committee since January 2014 and was recently named by MEREDA in January as one of two Volunteers of the Year.   He is an active and energetic volunteer helping to attract new members, creating original content on behalf of MEREDA for Mainebiz’s Maine Real Estate Insider e-mail newsletter, and promoting MEREDA’s important mission and benefits throughout the state.

Josh and his family reside in Portland.

MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark says, “We’ve enjoyed working with Josh at the committee level and are excited to have him now engaged at the board level.  Josh has a lot of drive and ambition and will bring a great energy to the group.”

For further information, please contact MEREDA’s Vice President of Operations, Shelly R. Clark at 207-874-0801 or visit www.mereda.org.

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Maine’s second biggest industry as healthy as it’s been in 11 years

MEREDA Spring Index Logo 96Maine’s real estate sector reached its highest point in 11 years, with the industry metric that measures the health of the market, The MEREDA Index, coming in at 96. The MEREDA Index grew by more than 7% over 2016, the strongest growth since the recession.

“The most recent quarter marks the eighth in a row — that’s two years — where The MEREDA Index has been above 90, a number not otherwise seen since the height of the market in 2006. That the real estate sector is so strong in Maine, and has been so strong for so long, is impressive,” said Paul Peck, board president of MEREDA, who is also a real estate attorney and real estate developer.

“Real estate is one of Maine’s biggest industries, second only to healthcare, contributing 14% of GDP. The strength of this sector benefits us all.”

The MEREDA Index is a twice-annual metric meant to measure the health of the sector against pre-recession, 2006 levels. It was designed and is compiled for MEREDA by Dr. Charles Colgan, an economist with the University of Southern Maine, and is comprised of three components.

Thanks to the support of Eaton Peabody and SMRT for underwriting this edition of The MEREDA Index, three industry insiders recently joined MEREDA to discuss the latest numbers.

Learn more by watching the following video.

The commercial market, accounting for 50% of The MEREDA Index, grew almost 9% over the course of six months, and was a key driver in the record-setting performance of the metric. “Commercial lease rates and square footage were both strong over this period, offsetting weaknesses in the volume of commercial transactions and sales price per square foot,” remarked Colgan, who also noted that total commercial transactions and median commercial sale price remained near and/or surpassed 2006 levels for this period.

The residential market, comprising 40%, “was unchanged over the past six months as sales of existing units and median price remained strong, but permits for new units dropped by nearly 17%. Estimated quarterly median price 1 hit 195,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, equivalent to the 2006 first quarter figure … Sales of existing units and mortgage originations were both strong in the fourth quarter of 2016, but fell off in the first quarter of 2017,” according to Colgan.

And construction, measured solely by construction employment, has grown almost 9% in the past six months and almost 6% year-over-year. “This is the strongest growth in construction employment over the past several years,” said Colgan. Industry insiders say there is still strong demand for new construction projects to go online, and that more skilled workers are still needed in the industry, laying the groundwork for even more increases in this sector in the months to come.

“Stable interest rates and prudent lending by financial institutions has set a solid base for continued growth in the months ahead,” concluded Peck.

A full report of The MEREDA Index is available for download here.

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The Trend Toward Car-Free Cities Is Picking Up Speed

By Blueprint, presented by CBRE

When you think about it, car-free cities shouldn’t seem like such a radical idea. Cities, after all, have been around for thousands of years, while cars date back just a century or so.

And yet, the automobile has so worked itself into our way of life over that time, that doing without it seems all but unthinkable.

That attitude is changing, however, as urban centers around the world have begun to consider going entirely car-free, or at least experimenting with the notion. In fact, says longtime car-free advocate Joel Crawford, the idea has become so popular that it’s started to feel a bit superfluous.

“It’s been gaining momentum to the point where people are no longer very interested in what I’m saying because it’s mainstream now,” says Crawford, author of the books Carfree Cities and Carfree Design Manual.

That might be bad for his book sales, but, he says, it’s good for urban dwellers around the globe.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of car-free policies is the reduction in automobile-associated pollution. But Crawford suggests that’s just the start of it. There’s also a host of broader lifestyle and aesthetic benefits.

“You get boots on the street. People come out,” he says. “It starts at the pavement level: ‘Well, that doesn’t need to be there if there aren’t any cars.’ And then as you look higher up, dozens and dozens of signs disappear, as do traffic signals. The sidewalks can be wider, with more trees, and on and on.”

Perhaps the easiest way to go car-free is to never have them in in the first place. Take, as an example, Fes el Bali, a portion of Fes, Morocco, founded more than 1,000 years ago that, with no cars and a population of more than 150,000 people, is thought to be the world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area.

Venice, Italy, is another spot whose history and geography have made it something of a “naturally occurring” car-free city. (Though you’ll have no trouble finding a motorboat.)

But localities that have traditionally been more intertwined with automobiles are also looking to cut back, if in a bit more limited fashion. For instance, in 2009, New York City announced plans to ban auto traffic from Times Square, turning large portions of the “crossroads of the world” into a pedestrian plaza. Launched as an experiment, the move was such a hit that the city made the change permanent the following year.

The Spanish capital Madrid is taking things even further, with plans to enact an auto ban across some 500 acres of its city center by 2020. Likewise, Oslo, Norway, aims to eliminate car traffic in its city center by 2019. In Copenhagen, Denmark, city officials have been working to drive down auto traffic by boosting bike use. According to a story from The Guardian, published last November, bikes outnumber cars in the city’s center for the first time, 265,700 to 252,600.

“Copenhagen now has the highest bike share of any city in the world,” Crawford says. “And it certainly doesn’t have the best climate.”

In other words, if you can do it there, you can do it everywhere, and, indeed, that, essentially, is Crawford’s prediction.

“To me, it’s self-evident that in 50 years, most cities will be mostly car free,” he says.

That pretty much narrows it down to two options: everyone will be walking and biking, or else we’ll have finally gotten those jetpacks we’ve all been waiting for.

Article originally published on February 21, 2017 –  https://blueprint.cbre.com/the-trend-toward-car-free-cities-is-picking-up-speed/?__prclt=4AGPLU1l

“Blueprint, presented by CBRE, is an online magazine dedicated to telling timely and insightful stories about the transformational role real estate plays in the world.”

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MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event – Financing the Deal: Forming the Capital Stack

MEREDA Morning MenuFollowing up on the success of MEREDA’s Real Estate 101 and 202 breakfast events, join MEREDA June 22 from 7:30 – 9:00 AM at the Clarion Hotel in Portland as our panel presents Financing the Deal and Forming the Capital Stack, an inside look at what goes on behind the acquisition of a commercial property.

Jed Harris from North Atlantic Properties will present a case study on the acquisition and sale of one of his firm’s investments. He’ll offer a detailed explanation of how investors look at a property, how he approaches investment partners, the particular issues and opportunities with this investment, and ultimately the disposition. Mark Stasium from Camden National will discuss financing from a bank’s perspective and what key terms an investor should consider. Joel Shaw from Bernstein Shur will talk about legal considerations and potential structures that can be used if taking money from third party investors.

If you’ve ever considered buying a commercial property or wondered how investors analyze potential acquisitions this is a breakfast you’ll want to attend.

About the Event:

June 22, 2017
7:30AM to 9:00AM

Clarion Hotel
1230 Congress Street
Portland, ME

Buffet Breakfast: 7:30-8:00 am
Program: 8:00-9:00 am

About the Panel:

Jed Harris left Wall Street in 2004 and moved to Portland to pursue a lifelong passion for real estate. He is the founder of North Atlantic Properties, a firm focused on acquiring and re-positioning commercial properties in downtown Portland. His current major project is the former JJ Nissen bakery building on Washington Avenue in Portland.  Jed is on the MEREDA board and also serves on the board of Rippleffect. He enjoys cycling, skiing, and being on the water.  He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Jed lives with his family in Falmouth, Maine.

Joel T. Shaw, Esq. has been in private practice for 15 years, the last 12 of which have been with Bernstein Shur.  As a Shareholder in firm’s Business Law Practice Group and the Chair of its Private Capital subgroup, Joel focuses on structuring joint ventures and partnerships and assisting operating companies and private investment funds with raising capital.  As a former state securities regulator, Joel has deep experience with federal and state securities compliance, while balancing the practical business needs of his clients.  A moderate portion of Joel’s practice consists of representing general partners and investors in private equity-style real estate funds and targeted real estate investment projects throughout New England.

Mark Stasium is a Senior Vice President in the Commercial Real Estate Lending Division of Camden National Bank.  Mark works with commercial real estate investors and developers and is responsible for originating commercial real estate loan transactions in northern New England and northeastern Massachusetts.  Mark has 28 years of commercial lending and commercial credit experience, and prior to joining Camden National Bank, he was previously employed by Peoples Heritage Bank and TD Bank.  Mark and his family reside in Portland, Maine, and Mark currently serves on MEREDA’s Conference and Seminars Committee.

Registering for this Event:

Member: $45 pp | Non-Member: $55 pp Prices increase by $10 after June 15

Your RSVP is requested by June 15. Payment is expected at the time of registration. No refunds will be granted to anyone who registers, but fails to attend or who cancels after June 15.

Visit www.mereda.org for more information and to register.

This MEREDA “Morning Menu” Breakfast Event is Sponsored by Norway Savings Bank


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MEREDA’s Morning Menu Breakfast Event – Darkness into Light: Cannabis and its impact on Commercial Real Estate in the Post-Prohibition Era – Bangor Edition

breakfast-logo-for-press-releases-social-mediaIndustry experts suggest that no new-to-market use has had as large an impact on Maine’s commercial real estate landscape in recent years as has cannabis cultivation. Starting as a niche industry five years ago, the marijuana growth business has morphed into a well-regulated and complex professional system in some respects and an unregulated and “wild west” environment in others.  Rapid growth has put a significant strain on Maine’s existing industrial inventory and regulatory systems (both state and municipal).  And with the 2016 election legalizing adult use recreational cannabis, further stressors are anticipated.  Beyond adjusting to industrial impacts, Maine’s retail corridors need to prepare for inevitable retail store and further cultivation facility demand.  Importantly, efforts to implement the recreational cannabis program will provide Maine with an opportunity to “get it right” and enact a safe, robust, and fair regulatory system giving Maine the opportunity to establish a unique and successful economic sector in which many professionals will be comfortable operating.

Join MEREDA for breakfast on June 13 from 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor for a panel discussion and presentation on how this industry has evolved, where things stand today and what the future may hold. The panel will be moderated by Justin Lamontagne, a Partner at NAI The Dunham Group specializing in commercial industrial brokerage. It will feature presentations by Dan Walker of Preti Flaherty and Gretchen Jones of Eaton Peabody, two legal experts with extensive experience in representation of both cannabis landlords and end-users.

Discussion points will include a legislative update on current laws, an overview of financial and insurance hurdles, and pros and cons for property owner Landlords to consider. We will also have perspective from cannabis industry experts with Jacques Santucci from Opus Consulting Group and Brett Messer General Manager, Caregiver at Brigid Farm completing the panel.

About the Event:

June 13, 2017 – 7:30AM to 9:00AM

Cross Insurance Center
515 Main Street
Bangor, ME

Buffet Breakfast: 7:30-8:00 am
Program: 8:00-9:00 am

Registering for this Event:

Member: $25 pp | Non-Member: $35 pp
Prices increase by $10 after June 6

Your RSVP is requested by June 6. Payment is expected at the time of registration. No refunds will be granted to anyone who registers, but fails to attend or who cancels after June 6.

Visit www.mereda.org for more information and to register.

This MEREDA “Morning Menu” Breakfast Event is Sponsored by Eaton Peabody and Bowman Constructors.


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MEREDA’s DevelopME’s Lunch & Learn Series – “Analyzing the Deal”

DevelopME is a Committee of the  Maine Real Estate & Development Association

DevelopME is a Committee of the
Maine Real Estate & Development Association

MEREDA is excited to announce the formation of a new committee, DevelopME, for our enthusiastic emerging leaders. The committee is formed with a simple mission: “To engage membership and create professional development opportunities within MEREDA for the next generation of industry professionals”. 

Join DevelopME in their first event of a 3-part, Lunch and Learn Series on June 6, 2017 at Rines Auditorium at the Portland Public Library from 11:30 AM-1:00 PM.

Ethan Boxer-Macomber of Anew Development, Lindsay Harris of Gorham Savings Bank, and Al Palmer of Gorrill Palmer Engineers will walk us through finding and analyzing a deal. The focus will be on projects with low barriers to entry, and their due diligence and financing activities, with a single case study broken down by all 3 professionals. 

About the Event:

June 06, 2017 – 11:30AM to 1:00PM

Portland Public Library

Rines Auditorium
5 Monument Way
Portland, ME

Lunch: 11:30 AM
Program: 12:00 – 1:00 PM

About the Panel:

Al Palmer is a professional engineer, principal and co-founder of Gorrill Palmer. Gorrill Palmer is a civil engineering consulting firm with offices in South Portland and Virginia, offering land development, municipal, planning and transportation services. Al has over 30 years of experience in site selection, design, permitting and construction of commercial, residential, mixed-use and municipal developments.  Notable projects Al has been involved in include: 101 York Street in Portland consisting of 63 apartments, 17,000 sf of retail and 211 parking spaces; Biddeford Crossing consisting of 515,00 s.f. of retail/restaurant users and 2,500 parking spaces; Presumpscot River Place- a 29 lot residential single family development in Portland; and the Refresh of the 1.2M sf Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, VA, which resulted in expanded restaurant and retail opportunities that included the introduction of Apple and LL Bean to Southeastern Virginia.

Ethan Boxer-Macomber, LEED AP, has over 18 years of experience in real estate, housing, and community development and has successfully led multiple large-scale residential development projects across southern Maine. In 2013, Ethan started Anew Development, a Portland-based real estate development company dedicated to residential infill that provides highest, best community value by adhering to principles of quality urban design, smart growth, and sustainability. 

Ethan formerly was a City Planner for the cities of Davis, California, and Portland, Maine. He earned a BS in natural resources and ecology from the University of Maine and an MS in community planning and development from the University of California, Davis. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and was formerly certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). 

Lindsay Harris is Vice President, Portfolio Officer II at Gorham Savings Bank with over 20+ years’ experience in Commercial Lending. Upon graduating from Thomas College, she began her career at Peoples Heritage Bank (now TD Bank) where she specialized in small business lending and received several awards from the SBA, FAME and the President’s Club. Today, she is responsible for managing a portfolio of lenders with over $150 million in commercial loans to ensure credit quality, minimize risk, maintain existing relationships, and foster new relationships – all with exceptional customer service.  A resident of Scarborough for 14 years, Lindsay is also involved in various community events and fundraisers and is a mother of two boys.

Registering for this Event:

MEREDA Member: $15 each  | Non – Member: $25 each

Register After May 30:  Member: $25 each  |  Non-Member $35 each

Your RSVP is requested by May 30. Payment is expected at the time of registration. No refunds will be granted to anyone who registers, but fails to attend or who cancels after May 30.

This MEREDA DevelopME Lunch & Learn Series  Event is Sponsored by Gorham Savings Bank

Visit www.mereda.org for more information and to register.


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Need Continuing Education Credits? MEREDA’s 2017 Annual Spring Conference has them!

MEREDA’s Annual Spring Conference – ‘YIMBY’ism: YES in my Backyard – Why Development is Good

Construction Photo from Lucas Royalty Free

In recent years, many American cities and towns have witnessed a renaissance, with destination cities in particular seeing dramatically increased interest.  Typically, the impacts of such demand are felt on a regional scale.  From San Francisco to Portland and beyond, a degree of pressure corresponding to this renewed interest in city life has been placed on communities to build in unprecedented ways. With the rise in popularity of living in urban areas, opinions about how such places should develop are also increasing.

Recognizing the crippling effect of NIMBY, or “not in my backyard”, ways of thinking on housing prices, economic stability and general diversity of communities, some forward-thinking activists have begun to affirmatively make a case for growth and development.  

Coined “yes in my backyard”, or YIMBY, this movement is an overt counterargument to oppositional mindsets–and it’s gaining traction quickly.  In 2016, the first-ever YIMBY conference was held in Boulder Colorado, shining a national spotlight on an often-silent perspective that it’s actually good for cities to grow.  The movement encompasses a variety of vantage points which lead to this conclusion, from those grounded in environmental concerns to social equality and housing prices, and is far from an industry-led lobbying effort.  As such, YIMBYism may represent the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the way a broad range of Americans thinks about growth and its associated elements.

MEREDA is pleased to welcome Jesse Kanson-Benanav -a Boston-area pioneer in the YIMBY movement who has been instrumental as a leader on the front lines of this potential sea change in the conversation about development-for a discussion about its present status and implications for the future.  His perspective will be augmented by a panel of local professionals who will anchor this national trend in local context.  Attendees can expect to gain insight into the near future of community conversations about development, and what it means for the real estate industry more broadly.

Join us on May 18th for what is sure to be an eye-opening and informational event!

Meet our Local Experts:

  • Moderator: Elizabeth Boepple, BCM Environmental & Land Law
  • Jim Brady, Brady Enterprises
  • Jeff Levine, City of Portland
  • Dana Totman, Avesta Housing
  • Patrick Venne, Redwood Development Consulting


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Registration | Exhibits:   

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM


1:00 PM – 5:00 PM


5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

DoubleTree by Hilton

363 Maine Mall Road, South Portland, ME


Registration Fees before May 11th* (per person):

  • Members: $85.00
  • Non-Members: $105.00
  • Non-Profit Rate: $55.00
  • Students: FREE**
  • Municipal Officials & Employees: FREE**
  • Legislators & Agency Employees: FREE**

* Prices increase by $15 after May 11th

** MEREDA is pleased to provide subsidized admission for students and municipal officials. Call MEREDA at (207) 874-0801 for details.


This course has been approved for 3.00 hours of Broker, Legal, Architect and Appraiser Continuing Education Credits.

For more information or to register, please visit www.mereda.org

MEREDA’s Annual Spring Conference is sponsored by NBT Bank, PDT Architects, ReVision Energy, AAA Energy Co., Pierce Atwood, Mainebiz, Onyx Owl, Sevee & Maher Engineers, People’s United Bank and Verrill Dana

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