HREAO Event Recap: Northern California Real Estate Market Trends Panel 2014

Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94108. Thursday, Jan 23rd, 2014 at 7:00pm.




The 2014 Real Estate Emerging Trends Panel Discussion was the first event in Northern California featuring an expert and influential panel of alumni speakers, who shared their expertise and market assessments, ranging from an overview presentation of regional economic health, to projects and trends in specific asset classes, and availability of private and public financing.  The panel discussion was hosted by the Harvard Real Estate Alumni Organization and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants.  Thanks to Kimpton’s generous event sponsorship, the event took place at one of the boutique hotels at the heart of Union Square in San Francisco at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on January 23rd, 2014, with an array of h’orderve and cash bar that served over 85 attendees at the event.


The event was kicked off by an introduction from Macy Leung of Harvard Real Estate Alumni Organization and Greg Cullen of Harvard Investment Group in Los Angeles, who gave an overview of the organization’s mission.  With a brief slide presentation of a general market overview in the Bay Area and the region, Jim Musbach from EPS shared statistics of historic demographic and employment trends in the region, and the overall characteristics of the current population in the current market recovery stage in the real estate market cycle. 


The moderator, George Von Liphart, Managing Director of Peninsula Real Estate Capital Advisors, was a former managing director of Lehman Brothers in Japan, captivated the audience by framing the panel discussion on overall market capital availability and accessibility of capital market that impact individual market segments, the development feasibility, and specific projects on which the speakers have worked.


Joel Comer, Principal of Sandler O’Neill and Partners, an investment banking firm with headquartered in New York and an office in San Francisco, discussed the mortgage finance liquidity and asset management insights in the current market.  Joel discussed recent deals and mentioned the institutional capital and CMBS loans have began to be available once again since recent market recession, banks begin to loan, and liquidity of the market is beginning to be optimist once again.


The discussion turned to individual market segments and Michael Depatie, CEO of the Kimpton Hotels and Restuarants shared the company’s vision in accommodating the new generation of travelers with a chain of boutique hotels specifically tailored to the younger professional demographic.  Mike discussed the importance of customer services in his hotels, and the success of renovating old buildings and designing for the Gen Y travelers as the emerging trends in the hospitality market.


In a more specific market segment, Frank Rockwood of Rockwood Pacific discussed the senior housing market and the type of micro financing that may be available as a type of emerging financing vehicle.  The senior housing market is a popular product type, especially for EB-5 overseas investment, and continue to attract developers interests in recent years.


The engaging discussion ended with George’s questions for the high profile San Francisco Transbay Redevelopment Project by the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, a successor agency to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Michael Grisso of OCII offers a perspective from the public government sector, and discussed the public taxes and bond financing of the large scale project, and the inherent fiscal impacts of the redevelopment in the region. 


With few minutes to spare, George invited the audience to ask questions in the Q and A session, and gave a brief comparison of the U.S. market and the overseas Asian market based on his observation from working abroad.  The questions followed by discussion on overall urban development, cap rate compressions, and general perception of upcoming trends.  The successful event ended with a social at the Franciscan Room Mezzanine overlooking the grand entrance stair and second level bar.




George Von Liphart (Real Estate Investment) - Managing Director, Peninsula Real Estate Capital Advisors (PRECA). (College/HBS)

Mr. Von Liphart has 40 years of experience in the real estate business and was a Manager Director of Lehman Brothers in Tokyo. He served as a Trustee of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and is a member of the Harvard Real Estate Academic Initiative (HREAI).




Michael Depatie (Hospitality) - CEO and President, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. (HBS)

Mr. Depatie manages 60 hotels and 70 restaurants as the CEO of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and the company has been named to FORTUNE magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. He is a member of the Hotel Development Council of ULI and a member of the HREAI International Advisory Council.


Joel Comer (Investment Banking) -  Principal, Sandler O’Neill and Partners. (GSD AMDP)

Mr. Comer is an investment banker and manages the firm’s business on the West Coast, working with commercial bank and thrift clients in the areas of asset liability management, balance sheet restructuring and strategic business planning. He had managed the daily operations of the company’s Mortgage Finance group and was previously at Bear Sterns and Company.


Frank Rockwood (Senior Housing) - CEO, Rockwood Pacific. (College)

Mr. Rockwood founded Rockwood Pacific, a real estate firm specializing in supporting non-profits and other mission-based organization in providing housing and healthcare services to older adults. He previously served at Walt Disney Company, Transamerica, Sunrise Senior Living and Ziegler, and is on the board of director for Leading Age California.


Michael Grisso (Public Private Partnership) - Senior Project Manager, City of San Francisco Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure. (HKS)

Mr. Grisso led the implementation of the Transbay Redevelopment project for OCII, which was established as the successor agency to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. The new Transbay neighborhood received awards from the American Planning Associate and American Institute of Architects. He was previously a Director at CB Richard Ellis in San Francisco.  



Topic: Bay Area Real Estate Trends

James Musbach (Land Use Economics) - Managing Principal, EPS

Mr. Musbach has 30 years of experience as real estate, urban economics consultant in market and financial feasibility, land use, and public/private partnership projects. He was the past President and Board Member of Lambda Alpha, and was the Vice Chair on the Urban Land Institute San Francisco District Council. 

Thank you to Kimpton Hotel and Restaurants, and the Sir Francisco Drake hotel staffs for sponsoring and arranging the event for alumni, organization members, attendees, and guests  Thank you to the Urban Land Institute of San Francisco, Harvard Club of San Francisco, and Harvard Business School Alumni Club of San Francisco, for marketing and advertising the event.