A look at a decade of ULI’s Trends Days

Trends Day is exactly as it sounds — and nothing as it sounds.

It’s a day when thought-leaders congregate around panels, keynotes and between coffee cups about the latest trends in development. However, it’s much more than that. It’s one day a year when every decision-maker steps out of the C-suite and shares eight valuable hours of their day with peers and up-and-comers sharing best practices and industry insight in a neutral environment. There are no competitors at Trends Day — as everyone is on the same team, one that cares about responsible development and giving Arizona a competitive edge.

Trends Day celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015. Over that decade, the Trends Day committee has been chaired by some of the biggest influencers in the industry.

“I have been on the committee a few years, and we always try to keep it fresh and relevant,” says Dave Roderique, Trends Day chairman in 2011 and director and executive vice president of Downtown Phoenix Inc. “It is a must-attend event for real estate professionals, as we are always addressing what is important at the time. We take the attendee surveys very seriously and deliver a program the following year based on those survey responses. The survey does not fall on deaf ears or go into the round file.”

Through the downturn, Trends Day aimed to stay optimistic yet balanced.

“The lack of a housing market recovery was surprising and uncomfortable,” says Steve La Terra, chair of the 2012 Trends Day and managing director at Meyers Research LLC.

However, 2010 Trends Day Chair Greg Bielli, president and CEO of Tejon Ranch, shares that his biggest surprise was just how positive people were about the future of Arizona despire the times.

“The intent of trends day is to provide a balanced outlook,” Roderique seconds. “That was probably the biggest thing. We were all up there trying to be optimist about the future, yet it wasn’t happening.”

“It’s a well-oiled machine,” adds Heidi Kimball, 2014 Trends Day chair and senior vice president of Sunbelt Holdings.

From business in the sports industry to national leaders in commercial real estate, ULI has made a name for thinking outside the box and consistently updating the format of the event.

“Some of the things that we’re gravitating away from is traditional panels on industry segments,” says Mark Winkleman, 2013 Trends Day chair.

There are dozens of other programs for outlooks and time-sensitive market updates throughout the year for Phoenix professionals that ULI Arizona took Trends Day in a much broader direction.

“We decided people didn’t want to hear the state of the market … because they can find the info in other places,” says Kimball. “They want to hear interesting things about challenging opportunities … over the next 10 years.”

The woman behind the scenes of it all is ULI Arizona Executive Director Deb Sydenham.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work, but the bulk of that is Deb and her staff,” Winkleman says. “I’ve been a member of a lot of organizations … and, frankly, there isn’t anybody better than Deb at organizing events.”

In terms of stacking the deck with a solid committee, members really need to be forward-thinking.

“Having to set a debate topic six months before the event requires forward-thinking,” Kimball says.