My Favorite Side Gig

“The transdisciplinary nature of the Advisory Services panels and partnering with the community bring forth solutions that may not be obvious or expected, but in the end are more meaningful and durable.”

How did you first get involved with ULI Advisory Services panels?

I think I was simply in the right place at the right time. I’m on the Center for Sustainability Advisory Board and am the chair of the Responsible Property Investment Council [RPIC]. A key focal point for the Center for Sustainability is urban resilience. RPIC focuses on the triple bottom line—the intersect between the environment, social networks, and profitable investment strategy. The first panel I participated on focused on increasing economic and environmental resilience in northern Colorado in the aftermath of devastating flooding and in the face of changing weather patterns that could put the region at future risk. The second had a similar focus in two urban neighborhoods in Seattle. I have a unique perspective because I live in the rural West in Montana and run a more urban-focused real estate advisory firm. There aren’t too many ULI members out here in the Wild West. I found that my work with RPIC provides a unique lens for problems facing not only the West but in communities worldwide.

[Community resilience and the impact of climate change are specific examples of some of the issues tackled by the Advisory Services panels I’ve worked on.]

How have Advisory Services panels had an impact on your work?

The panels have broadened my perspective and informed my work by exposing me to new ideas and new lenses that challenge my assumptions, allow me to see different perspectives, and help me think more creatively.

What I love about working on the advisory panels is that there is a conscious choice to be mindful and think holistically and systemically about the solutions. The transdisciplinary nature of the team and partnering with the community bring forth solutions that may not be obvious or expected, but in the end are more meaningful and durable. By sharing roles and crossing disciplines, we learn from and challenge each other, ultimately pooling and integrating a wealth of expertise.

Buildings and communities are deceptively complex. In their simplest form, buildings provide us with shelter and enable us to work productively. Communities link us together and provide the necessities of a civilized society: roads and schools, safety and security, systems of communication and infrastructure—energy, water, and waste disposal. But beyond that, they are also an ecosystem that reflects the culture and values of the people who live, work and play within them.

The advisory panel process mirrors this experience—a unique matrix of individual parts that when put together in a thoughtful and intentional way create harmony and enable each of us to bring our best selves to the mix.

I think today’s world requires a vastly different analysis—one that looks at the intricacy of resilience, connection, sustainability, and high performance. It includes the full range of economic, social, and environmental impacts. What the panels do is allow us to articulate the benefits within the context of this complexity and make this the primary source of inspiration and the lever for action.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced while serving on a panel?

Practically speaking, because we have such a unique group of people who are willing to step up, we have a lot of strong opinions and great ideas. Sometimes, the biggest challenge is honing the list of ideas into something manageable. There is often robust debate; but rather than being divisive, it is really useful. Judging by the panels I’ve been on, this dialoguewhile challenging—has definitely brought us to a better understanding of the problems, and ultimately to more creative solutions.

What would you say to a ULI member who is considering participating in a panel for the first time? Any words of encouragement or advice?

Join in! Leave your ego at the door and jump on in. You’ll be with a great team, whoever the panelists are. Everybody I know who has been on a panel says they would absolutely do it again if asked.

It’s exhausting, challenging, and exhilarating to try to put something together in the short period of time we are given. We’ll get 75 percent through the week and say, “Oh my gosh, we’re never going to pull this together!” But it all comes together in the end and you will know that you’ve done something meaningful. You will leave knowing you’ve really made a difference for the community involved.

What is your favorite panel memory?

So many! How can I choose?

In Seattle, one of my favorite memories was a tour of Equinox Studios, an amazing art co-op in the heart of the industrial area of Georgetown. And, on a more personal level, meeting community members who fish and kayak in the Duwamish River alongside huge ships and “re-homed” furniture.

In Estes Park, Colorado, I was astounded by homes teetering on the [edge] of the river, seemingly ready to fall in. Stories of community resilience and ingenuity—volunteer ham radio operators acting as one of the first lines of communication during the floods and a “can do” attitude that got the one and only road in reopened in record time.

In Loveland, Colorado, the wonderful sculpture garden and, of course, in Fort Collins, touring New Belgium Beer.

I’m off to South Africa shortly and am looking forward to a great experience and more memories.

What are some of the rewards of serving on a panel?

It’s a unique opportunity. You’re able to look at a project or situation and think holistically and systemically about solutions. You’ll be part of a multidisciplinary team with no agenda other than coming up with the best possible recommendations. Looking at things from multiple viewpoints brings a much more robust and useful solution to problems.

There’s a ton of engaging dialogue, good conversation, healthy debate, and new perspectives always brought to the table. The solutions are not always obvious, and are often unexpectedly meaningful and durable over the long haul.

Working with my fellow panelists, chairs, and the ULI team, I’ve met interesting, dynamic, committed people. It is fun, and we have created long-lasting friendships and working relationships. We’ve seen cities and projects from rare and varied angles. It’s a great learning and growth experience.

What are your professional interests?

Responsible property investing. Creating vibrant, healthy communities. Making it a better place for people to live and work.

What was the last book you read?

The Nature of Investing by Katherine Collins. It’s about using biomimicry as a tool for investing. I’m recommending it to everybody! I also just read Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

What was your childhood dream job?

I really have no idea! I probably wanted to be a fashion designer.

What was the first concert you ever attended?

Jimmy Buffett! Any other parrot heads out there?