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Forum Focused on How Real Estate and Finance are Reshaping County’s Economy

Top row, from left: Dr. Joshua Harris, Managing Partner, Lakemont Group; BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon;Dr. Anthony R. Davidson, Dean, Fordham University School of Professional and Continuing Studies. Bottom row, from left: Melinda White, Commercial Banking Leader, Hudson Valley, Wells Fargo; Al Gutierrez, Managing Director, Brokerage, JLL; and Nikki Greenberg, founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Real Estate of the Future.

Leaders in real estate, economics and finance discussed industry trends and market influencers and how they are impacting the commercial sector in Westchester County and beyond at a forum last week hosted by Fordham University’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies and The Business Council of Westchester.

“Let’s Get Fiscal! — How Real Estate and Finance Trends Are Reshaping Westchester’s Economy” was presented virtually June 1 and featured Nikki Greenberg, founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Real Estate of the Future; Al Gutierrez, Managing Director, Brokerage, JLL; and Melinda White, Commercial Banking Leader, Hudson Valley, Wells Fargo. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Joshua Harris, a real estate economist and investment strategist who is Managing Partner of the Lakemont Group and an adjunct professor at Fordham’s Real Estate Institute.

Harris set the stage by looking at the ‘yield curve inversion,’ where short-term rates are higher than long-term, and the impact on real estate. He noted the U.S. Treasury one-month rate is at 5.2% while the 10-year — which sets the tone for mortgage rates and commercial real estate valuation — is at 3.6%.

He asked the panel if Westchester is benefitting from work-from-home and other “turmoil” in Manhattan. “Historically, Westchester was a recipient of many headquarters coming out of NYC, looking for a better way of work and life. Then we saw a pull back toward the urban setting,” said Gutierrez. “Now there’s questions about occupancy — do they need to be in NYC? Should we be thinking of more regional offices? Westchester, from a locational standpoint, is well-poised to benefit.”

The conversation shifted to transit-oriented development (TOD) — noting progress in Yonkers, New Rochelle and Port Chester — and asked whether Westchester’s real estate community is up to the task of providing that product going forward. “Multifamily housing is a sweet spot in real estate right now,” said White. “The limiting factor is the economics — with the current interest rates, can these projects pencil out? We’re seeing projects on hold, not due to a lack of capital but to the costs of construction and to carry.”

Greenberg, a futurist and innovation strategist, pointed to Gen Z as a target for TOD. “They’re a generation with different expectations and definitely want to be homeowners,” she said. “They love technology and also care very deeply about the environment. It’s a natural fit for them to want to live close to where they work, or at least near highly connected transport.”

“This insight is so important as we begin to plan for 2024 and beyond,” said Business Council of Westchester President and CEO Dr. Marsha Gordon. “What happens in the commercial real estate market in the Hudson valley, NYC and the broader region affects all of the business community in Westchester.”

“We’re proud to collaborate with The Business Council of Westchester and bring together top minds to help us all stay ahead of the curve,” said Dr. Anthony R. Davidson, Dean, Fordham University School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS).

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