From left to right: Adolfo Ramírez-Escudero, Alfonso Vegara, Simone Santi, and Michael Phillips.

«The first ULI Spain conference was a huge success», stated Francisco Rocha Antunes, Chairman of ULI Portugal.
The opening day counted with more than 350 top professionals from the Spanish market attending a buffet dinner at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum, where the Pedro de Churruca career award was given to Juan José Brugera Clavero, president of Inmobiliaria Colonial .

On the following morning, the 15th, the conference took place at the Rainha Sofia Museum, and Francisco Rocha Antunes highlighted the recorded communication of the Mayor of Lisbon announcing the adhesion of the city of Lisbon to ULI.

The sustainable development of cities and their planning was one of the main themes addressed in this event, and in this line Fundación Metrópoli and CBRE presented the study “Diagonal Sur de Europa (Milan-Barcelona-Madrid-Lisbon) 4 cities: Factors of Competitiveness”, giving place to a round-table discussion moderated by Adolfo Ramírez-Escudero, president of CBRE Spain; and composed by Alfonso Vegara, Chairman of Fundación Metrópoli; Simone Santi, Development Director/Head of Offices at Lendlease; and Michael Phillips, principal and president of Jamestown.

During the study presentation, Alfonso Vegara highlighted that Cities are the engine of the global economy as in its own words “we don’t live any more in a world of countries; Countries divide, Cities connect”.

For his part, Michael Phillips referred to the differentiation of these spaces, with a commitment to innovation and the growth of the industry. Additionally, the president of Jamestown also stated that their company follows infrastructure developments and the youth movements, because ultimately that’s where the future workforce will be located.

On the other hand, Simone Santi explained that Tier 2 cities that presented high levels of quality of life conducted their in-depth search for a location to enter, and Milan exceled on that aspect. Plus, he commented that “the dimension and infrastructure are enough to attract talent, but not enough to share the problems of Tier 1 cities”.

Lessons learned and key considerations for cities development

Michael Phillips recalled that several master urban plans ended up being built with an outdated vision due to delays and decisions put on hold, and that “what we need is holistic experience, we don’t want our development to be supported on single asset experience, because the growth needs to be adjusted to the cycles”.

For his part, Simone Santi encouraged the sector to forget the traditional real estate approach and to focus on both purpose and content, "creating innovative ecosystems as a result of collaboration". Simone illustrates that MIND (Milan Innovation District) is an experiment in a quite substantial piece of land, where the main goal is to build with purpose, for which the main questions to guide the project were: how do we attract business? And how do we attract talent?

In order to guarantee the success of the city’s development experts agreed that the public needs to be invested, is to say it needs to be involved, to value the development that will take place, and to benefit from it. Needless to say, the power of public institutions brings increased visibility and the possibility to “anchor” public facilities to the project, such as education entities, research organisms, and many others. Furthermore, the uncertainty is de-risked as public initiative assures the execution of infrastructure developments.

Focusing on the Iberian cities in which its company operates, Michael Phillips commented that Madrid has a very robust culture and management mentality of the environment, and there are several projects with high potential for innovation, like is example the Matadero and the Madrid Nuevo Norte.

Regarding Lisbon, the Jamestown president considers that the city is very good at attracting talent, and “so far, our engagement with the city (both with the old and the new administration) has been enormous, and I would even affirm that Portugal is probably one of the most open countries in Europe in terms of available incentives to innovation”.

Alfonso Vegara added that Spain has one of the biggest urban solution clusters. In his opinion, one of the most intelligent ways for a city to differentiate itself is focusing on the urbanization, because “the only thing that doesn’t change is the place where you are, the idiosyncrasy”.

Institutional presence

As a closing for this session on cities, Carlos Moedas, Mayor of Lisbon, and Giancarlo Tancredi, Councilor for Urban Planning of Milan, intervened via video. Carlos Moedas stated that the factors of competitiveness of cities depend on digitization, sustainability and the ability to attract talent: “Cities are engines of transformation, as they turn global challenges into specific ones. Giancarlo Tancredi, for his part, spoke of inspiration and functionality in city management: "The key is innovative projects that provide new ideas and solutions."

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