Rose Center Scholarship Winner Vincent Tong thinks ULI’s Product Council is an essential experience

In ULI Fall Meeting

Originally posted at: ULI Toronto

In this four part series, ULI Toronto members who received a scholarship to the ULI Fall Meeting reflect on their time at the meeting, and how they can incorporate their learnings to city-building in Toronto.

Vincent Tong, Toronto Community Housing

After hearing I was one of a few lucky recipients of the Rose Center ULI Fall Meeting Scholarship, I quickly set out planning my week — downloading the ULI app, mapping out which general session and concurrent sessions I would attend. Just when I thought I had everything down, I was invited as a guest to attend the Urban Development and Mixed-Use Product Council.

I was fortunate to attend the 2015 Fall Meeting in San Francisco and one of the things I liked most about that Fall Meeting was the real estate tour I joined. The setting was more intimate, allowing you to meet those on the tour. While the general and concurrent sessions are interesting, there are limited opportunities to interact with others. That is what is so great about the Product Council. You spend a full day (and evening) with a group of people, hearing what they do and getting the benefit of learning from their experiences while at the same time getting to share your own.

I had heard about the Product Councils before being invited as a guest to attend one. It seemed like a secret society where there were plots on converting suburban strip malls in to mixed use developments, or transforming single family homes into transit-oriented developments. While mixed-use development was an underlying theme that guided the roundtable discussions, I’m sorry to report there were no top-secret plots to espouse the virtues of mixed-use urbanism throughout the world. Instead the discussions centered around the state of the US economy and, of course, the US election and what different outcomes would have on the real estate. There were more informal discussions over lunch and on the buses to and from venues about the future of retail and whether there is an oversupply of new units in key markets.

While the discussions were informative and offered learnings through viewpoints from different markets, the one thing I will take away from the experience are the people I met on the Product Council day and throughout the Fall Meeting. If you ever find yourself fortunate enough to attend a ULI Fall Meeting, I highly recommend reaching out to a Product Council member and getting yourself a seat at the table.