In late September, the San Diego Global Partnership had put together their first ever conference called the Global Investment Forum. The forum brings together both public and private organizations to explore opportunities in Southern California and Baja California regions.
Xpera Group’s Director of Market Research, Alan Nevin, was invited to speak at one of the prestigious panels that focused on the future of Southern California Real Estate.
In a room filled with international investors, startup founders, real estate developers and business leaders, the conference opened with celebrating Southern California’s growing force and influence in the global economy. The welcome address by San Diego Global Partnership’s co-founder Matt Belcher opened with a story, not of an individual or company but a collective narrative.
San Diego's Economic Advantage in the Global Market
This collective narrative defines San Diego especially because it is a unique city that has a multitude of industries. “We have actually eight basic industries here, whereas most metropolitan areas have one or two drive their economy. We are very broad,” Alan Nevin told the audience during his panel. Many of those industries are technology related including cleantech, biotech, bluetech, and electronics. The number of industries does come with a challenge, namely branding.
“We are quietly brilliant,” David Graham of City of San Diego stated regarding how the city is often not on the international investor radar or high up on the list. Despite having over 80 research & development institutions, the county doesn’t have a Microsoft, General Motors or Google kind of company, which the global public knows well enough to place their headquarters on a map.
“In the 21st century, all these [global brand name] enterprises depend on a backbone of technology solutions that are invented in places like San Diego,” Mary Walshok of UCSD spoke on how the city’s sociological factors and interconnected industries help create technologies and innovations that change the world. “We create the technology that not only creates the ‘shiny objects’ today… but tomorrow’s shiny objects.”
Those interconnected industries also crosses the border. Miguel Oscarlo Alessandrini Flores of Tijuana explained how closely San Diego is tied with Mexico. For one, over 141,000 people cross San Diego border daily, making it the most traveled border crossing in the world. Tijuana has industries in electronics, medical devices, aerospace, and, like San Diego, is the craft beer capital in the country with over 35 breweries.
Future of San Diego Real Estate
The forum’s Real Estate section of the program started with Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen from Gafcon. He spoke on San Diego’s major waterfront redevelopment of Seaport, which encompasses 70 acres in the prime southwest waterfront corner of downtown.
In his keynote, Gaf went into the aspects of how his team developed the vision of the plan, including taking inspirations from Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, the Seattle space needle and other concepts to help create an iconic place that connect the people of downtown with the water.
Immediately following was the Future of Real Estate panel, where Xpera’s Alan Nevin joined Gaf along with Ian Marksbury of Strategic Realty Group, Eddie Cheng from RedHill Realty Advisors, Domenic Drago from Sheppard Mullin, and Amber Anderson from Pacific Sotheby’s International.
One of the notable trends talked about in the panel was the evolving landscape of retail real estate. For shopping areas with heavy foot traffic, stores are redesigning their spaces to focus on customer experiences instead of volume of inventory. That concept has been implemented in Gafcon’s previously mentioned Seaport redevelopment plan.
This trend in retail is creating opportunities for investors and developers to reposition the large regional shopping centers in California, which traditionally has large parking lots and anchor stores. One example that was cited was Horton Plaza, the firm that purchased the center has plans to transform Horton Plaza into office and creative research & development space.
A common theme that was spoken among many panelists was how San Diego is comparatively less expensive than other major cities on the West Coast. Some segments of real estate, such as luxury residential is considered a bargain in a global market, and lots of international executives are buying. Another notable fact is that some realtors are seeing an increase of foreign investment from India, which is rivaling the level of interest from China.
Technology Leadership San Diego
In other panels, startup owners and business leaders covered topics such as smart cities, social media industry changes, funding methods, alternative investments, and more. One of the hot technology topics was Artificial Intelligence research, which the insiders stated that there are only 3-4 metropolitan centers in the world competing to be the leader, and San Diego is a potential candidate to join the fray. One advantage the city has is the relatively unique business culture known which one panelist had summarized as "Compete to collaborate."
For its first conference, SD Global Partnership hit it out of the park! Special thanks to Theresa Andrews of the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors and others for putting together the great program. Xpera is glad to be a part of it and look forward to the next one. For anyone interested in Alan Nevin’s economic insights, you can visit his real estate economic services page. He is also available for public speaking events and can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.