At the ULI Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2020 breakfast in Portland this morning, local experts discussed the strengths and weaknesses in the Portland market, as well as what the region should be working toward in the next few years.
Keynote speaker Andy Warren, Director of Real Estate Research at PwC, emphasized that the differences between the top 20 metro areas for real estate investment are shrinking. This year, Portland was ranked 20th on the list, while Seattle was 10th. Denver dropped from 10th place last year to 17th this year. Warren commented on the rising phenomenon of "hipsturbia," or millennial hipsters moving to suburbs while expecting walkable urban amenities like bars, breweries, and flexible work spaces. He also emphasized that cities that have invested in infrastructure are the most attractive to investors. According to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate survey, 81% of real estate professionals cite transportation as the most important infrastructure investment a city can make.
Following Warren's presentation, Matt Miller of Greater Portland Inc. moderated a panel featuring Warren, Expensify Founder David Barrett, Bridge Economic Development President Alisa Pyszka, and Eastdil Secured Senior Vice President Mark Washington. The panel discussed Portland's strengths and weaknesses, as well as what the city will need to do in the future to foster economic growth.
Barrett recently moved his company from San Francisco to Portland, which he said was primarily a lifestyle decision. He did not look at school districts or taxes, but instead was drawn to Portland because of the character of its neighborhoods, and its proximity to wine country and outdoor recreation. He urged the developers and planners in the audience not to imitate San Francisco's pattern of development in which urban campuses close themselves off and shut out the local community.
Other panelists, including Alisa Pyszka, emphasized that Portland needs to work on growing its economy from within and focusing on educational opportunities that rely less and bringing in talent from other cities. They also discussed the "trailing spouse" factor - if people move here for job opportunities, will their spouses also be able to find jobs in their field that will keep them in the region?
In terms of barriers to entry and feasibility, the panelists agreed that while local investors may feel that the political and regulatory environment in Portland makes investment and development difficult, investors from larger cities tend to view the city as a relatively untapped market that presents an opportunity for creative options. This was borne out in the survey, which ranked Portland as the #1 city for investment opportunities.