Deb Sydenham: An agent of change
Deb Sydenham joined ULI Arizona as executive director in September 2010 after nearly 20 years with the State of Arizona and nine years in the private sector. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and a member of the College of Fellows for the American Institute of Certified Planners (FAICP). In 2012, she was named as one of the 25 Most Admired CEOs in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area and in 2014 was included in the inaugural group of the 20 Most Influential Women in commercial real estate. Her experience with local, regional and state governments and tribal communities serves as a solid foundation to moving the ULI mission forward.
Trends Day in Arizona will celebrate its 10-year anniversary this year. What is your fondest memory?
As a ULI member, I attended a number of Trends Days and was continually amazed by the substantive content brought forth. As executive director, I have the incredible opportunity to work alongside vastly talented member volunteers in developing the Trends Day program … ULI Arizona’s Trends Committee is invitation-only and represents a cross-section of land use and real estate interests. The overwhelming success of Trends Day 2014 posed an interesting challenge to the group: How do we top Trends 2014, deemed by all to have been the best Trends Day ever? You’ll have to join us on Jan. 28, as I have no doubt that the compelling program developed by this team is going to do just that!
What role will ULI take in solving one of the most important issues facing Arizona’s land use in 2015?
It is clear we are surrounded by wholesale change. Several critical issues headline this change, but one in particular is far-reaching — infrastructure. Infrastructure can be defined in a variety of ways – transportation, technology, utility, social, and so on – and leadership and implementation of new infrastructure frameworks can reposition communities not only from a competitive standpoint, but also how they enhance the quality of life for residents … This vast infrastructure conundrum must be addressed and executed in the context of a multi-generational marketplace and changing demographic scenarios. ULI’s legacy is rooted in the sharing of best practices. The institute is widelyacclaimed as a neutral convener and safe haven where individuals engage in dialogue, analysis, and debate to review market trends, best practices and future challenges faced by communities globally. Facilitating collaborative conversations that result in teamwork and strategic action is a cornerstone of ULI Arizona and one of the spaces in which we continue to be most effective. The ULI Arizona Community Initiatives Committee … has been exploring the unique facets and nuances of infrastructure within the Phoenix Metropolitan region … There are no quick fixes to issues of this magnitude. Patience and deliberate action will enable business and community leaders to craft insightful and future-oriented strategies to forge better places. ULI will be the organization convening the conversation where this transformation takes place.
How is ULI sharing best practices between public and private sectors?
After decades of what felt like infinite resources, we now face a mind set of shortages – especially financial ones. In the world of land use and real estate investment, the continual challenge is to understand new trends, capitalize on new market opportunities and direct investment funds in strategic ways. Local governments and development interests are seeking ways to embrace flexibility – in regulatory environments, floor plates, target market demographics and location … A strong public-private partnership goes well beyond the financial considerations of leveraging resources. This partnership must also involve open communication and collaboration – both of which are essential in today’s economy … Communities statewide have reached out to ULI as a partner in convening meaningful dialogue and seeking solutions to local land use and development challenges … ULI Arizona’s member and institute resources are positioned to navigate the transformational momentum being experienced throughout the Valley and form the partnerships that are a prerequisite for progress.
What’s a development issue you’d like to see discussed more in 2015?
Leadership. Catalyzing the changes necessary to create vibrant and resilient communities is not for the weak at heart, especially as we continue to forge through uncertain markets