Executive director of Urban Land Institute Minnesota
Caren Dewar recalls when she realized that neighborhood development was her calling. She was a fifth-grade teacher reevaluating her career path. She took a retreat to the Minnesota North Shore armed with a career advice book, and after answering a series of questions, discovered that economic development and community-based planning were her true passions. Dewar says she's been living out her "North Shore, 'What Color is Your Parachute,' ah-ha moment" ever since.
For the past 30 years, Dewar has worked in affordable housing and neighborhood redevelopment. She served on the Metropolitan Council, ran a consulting firm, and for the past seven years has been executive director of Urban Land Institute Minnesota (ULI). The 400-member organization helps public and private sectors work together on housing, environmental, economic development and transportation initiatives.
She helped launch ULI's Regional Council of Mayors, which includes 50 Minnesota mayors working together solving common problems in a nonpartisan atmosphere, including housing, transportation and land use, and job creation. The national ULI organization has its big fall meeting in October entitled "What's Next: Real Estate in the New Economy."
QAre the real estate doldrums over?
AThey're starting to be. ... People are talking that they're getting busy again. It's not the same world though; financing is still tougher to get, risk is greater. Our state and local governments are strained in terms of resources, so it's trying to figure out how to move forward and reduce risk.
QWhat's included in the 'new economy'?
AApartments are being built because interest rates are so low and demand is great. That's certainly a characteristic of this new economy where both market preferences and demographic shifts are moving toward smaller spaces connected to amenities. ... Baby boomers and the younger generation are looking for a product that's smaller, greener and closer in. ... The way people are working is changing and senior housing is changing. Seniors want to be in connected, vibrant places.
QHow can ULI help cities?
AOne way is our workshop called "Navigating the New Normal." We bring in professional ULI volunteers, who have a very detailed conversation with the city's leadership about what it's going to take to position the city for future prosperity given these changing trends. They need to think about how to make their city appealing to the next generation. We're not at a time anymore where cities have multiple deals pounding on their door. Businesses and developers are looking for cities ready to partner and have their tools in place.
Liz Wolf is an Eagan-based freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.