Program & Venue

Opening Keynote Sheila Johnson, Salamander Hotels and Resorts with Laurie Silvers,, Chair, UM Board of Trustees

Alternative Building Solutions Jason Ballard, Icon, Eric Feder, LENx, Amit Haller, Veev, Kenneth A. Smuts, Renco, USA

Global Real Estate Investment and Development Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Arquitectonica, Sonny Kalsi, BentallGreenOak, Marcelo Kingston, Multiplan

Closing Keynote Arnaud Karsenti, 13th Floor Investments, Sandeep Mathrani, WeWork, Francis X. Suarez, Mayor, City of Miami

Real Estate Research Initiative presented by MRED+U Students

Swire Scholar Lunch for Students and Real Estate Advisory Board Members 
University of Miami Alumni and Students gather to celebrate the 10th Annual Real Estate Impact Conference
University of Miami Alumni and Students gather to celebrate the 10th Annual Real Estate Impact Conference


Building The Global, Entrepreneurial, Tech-Friendly City

The groundswell and momentum that was unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of change and triggered a reconsideration of how we conduct virtually every aspect of our daily lives. The pandemic challenged longstanding assumptions, required rapid adaptation by businesses and municipalities, and fueled a wave of rethinking and innovation in every sector of the real estate industry in virtually every nation. Nowhere is this more evident than in South Florida, where an unprecedented influx of entrepreneurs, venture capital and technology-based companies has amplified Miami’s global connections and drawn international attention.

The 2022 Impact Conference convened outstanding entrepreneurs, community and industry leaders to explore the exciting opportunities for reimagining the future as the post-pandemic horizon comes into view.

Download conference program


Innovation, Vision, and Collaboration to Shape the Future of Real Estate According to UM’s 10th Annual Real Estate Impact Conference

If the past few years have made anything clear, it’s that changes are happening in our world and more will be needed if businesses are to survive and compete, especially in the real estate markets of tomorrow. Scarcity of labor, shifting consumer priorities, corporate social responsibility, and preparing for scalable growth are just a few of the top concerns facing society on a global scale. The short answer for all of them uncovered in this year’s University of Miami Real Estate Impact Conference was simple - the time has come to stop relying on decades-old solutions and start building the real estate industry of the future.

For this, the 10th annual event, participants and attendees gathered on campus at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center on Friday, February 25th, hosted by the School of Architecture and Miami Herbert Business School and the School of Law. Presenters included several of the world’s top thought leaders in real estate development, construction, technology, hospitality, government, and finance, who discussed Miami Momentum: Building the Global, Entrepreneurial, Tech-Friendly City, and the dramatic shift currently underway as Miami enters the next chapter in its evolution to a major world capital. 

While the city itself has been experiencing many years of steady growth, rapid changes have been taking place lately, pushed in part by the pandemic, but also through new perspectives in terms of tech business, hospitality, culture, and an environment ripe for strategic real estate investment and development. This year’s speakers offered perceptive observations into all of these situations, what the future may yet hold, and what the professionals of today and tomorrow must do to capitalize on the opportunities ahead. 

“As an institution of higher learning, our foremost directive is to serve as a conduit for knowledge, and to inspire our students, faculty, alumni, and greater community to apply those skills and insights in meaningful ways,” said Lynn Hackney, Principal for Community Three as she helped kick off the event. Her remarks were echoed by Charles C. Bohl, PhD, Professor and Director for the School of Architecture’s Master of Real Estate Development + Urbanism Program. “The University of Miami has become an interdisciplinary powerhouse offering programs in every field connected to the real estate industry under one roof,” he said. “We operate as partners, not silos, in providing rich, interdisciplinary experiences for our students that mirror the real world relationships between disciplines and professions.” “Our students and alumni are the problem solvers and industry leaders who will play pivotal roles in shaping resilient, livable and affordable communities for decades to come”

The distinguished panelists each took that sentiment further, adding the perspectives gained over dozens of years of hands-on work in their respective fields.

9:30 AM

Scaling Showcase

Nine entrepreneurs from around globe who are here to present their innovations which will change the way you think about commercial real estate.

10:00 AM

Advice with Impact!

Advice with Impact!, a morning networking exchange, showcases our top MRED+U, MBA, MSF and Law School students.
Our students are eager to gain the benefit of your knowledge as they embark on their careers in real estate, and this event provides a smaller group setting to meet, share your insights and scout new talent.

12:00 PM Registration & Networking
1:00 PM

Keynote Conversation

Sheila Johnson, CEO, Salamander Hotels and Resorts

Laurie Silvers, Co-CEO,, Chair, UM Board of Trustees


Meaningful Place Making  

Entrepreneurship, and its growing connection to diversity, culture, and community building were highlighted as important movements impacting all industries by Sheila Johnson, the dynamic founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and co-founder of BET, and Laurie Silvers, Co-CEO,, Chair, UM Board of Trustees. Johnson explained that the brands that are succeeding today, including her own, are doing so as a result of being inclusive and authentic to the people and stories of a place. As examples, she cited her numerous successes in Middleburg, VA - a quaint horse-country town that Johnson has transformed into a must-see cultural destination by founding the Middleburg Film Festival, and the Family Reunion Food & Wine Festival, in addition to an equestrian-themed Salamander Resort & Spa. The film festival has become one of the most influential film events for up-and-coming filmmakers and future Academy Award winners. Family Reunion is an annual celebration of the Black and Brown culinary traditions that are ingrained into the local culture. Together, the two events serve to carve out a path for Middleburg’s growth while also preserving and honoring its past, a balance Johnson said is vital in developing destinations with significance.

She then shared how this same concept of inclusiveness and authenticity drew her to her latest project, a Salamander Resorts partnership with The Aspen Institute in Aspen, CO. As one of the world’s key thought leaders in how the world can create a fair and just society for all, The Aspen Institute’s mission aligns perfectly with what Johnson has seen as the emerging trend in forward-thinking hospitality development. As people continue to look for experiences that enrich and benefit their lives, the old paradigm of rigidly controlling the brand narrative, she said, was fading. “We have to start recognizing what I call the double-bottom-line. If you help your community, it comes back to you. That’s how we need to move forward.” For Miami, where rich cultural diversity has long been a key component of the city’s dynamic, Johnson’s words serve as valuable guideposts for future development of the resort and hospitality economy.

2:00 PM Networking Break
2:30 PM

Alternative Building Solutions

Jason Ballard, Co-Founder & CEO, Icon

Eric Feder, President, LENx

Amit Haller, CEO, Veev

Kenneth A. Smuts, President, Renco, USA


Rising to Meet Development Demand

Adding another dimension to the conversation regarding the evolution that must take place if cities like Miami are to achieve their global destinies, Jason Ballard, Co-Founder & CEO of Icon; Eric Feder, President of LENx; ; Amit Haller, CEO of Veev; and Kenneth A. Smuts, President of Renco, USA delved into the rapidly emerging field of alternative building technologies. From 3-D printed full-scale livable homes, to composite materials that assemble on site in days, to completely integrated smart walls that bring plug-and-play simplicity to plumbing and electrical construction, the panel not only revealed a world of exciting possibilities for real estate, but also underscored the critical need for the industry to adopt these new technologies and others like them. “In a world where materials like lumber are skyrocketing, and labor costs keep accelerating, the ‘same old story’ just doesn’t cut it,” shared Smuts. The panelists agreed that while nearly every other industry in modern society has evolved to incorporate technologies, real estate construction has lagged far behind. In a global economy that is making things faster and more affordable every single day, buildings are taking longer, costing more, and providing less quality to end users, Haller observed. “It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t have to be.” 

The panel then detailed the difference between what is happening in real estate today vs. what could happen as soon as tomorrow. Ballard showed video of Icon’s revolutionary construction-scale 3-D printing robot. ICON’s technology has already been successful in building 100 Bjark-Ingels-designed homes in 60 days in Austin, TX - making them not only some of the most high-profile properties in the area, but also some of the most affordable within their market. The dramatic reduction in labor costs is also a key benefit offered by Renco, whose plug-and-play molded composite blocks were used to build 100 market-rate apartments in West Palm Beach and 200 multi-story structures in the Middle East in a matter of a couple of weeks, without cranes or heavy equipment, and with only a handful of workers, none of whom were specialized construction trades. Veev’s innovative wall systems are pre-manufactured with electrical and plumbing already integrated. On-site, the wall panels assemble to each other with simple connections, again eliminating the need for typical construction trades. Across all three technologies, the materials are mold-free, waterproof, termite-proof, and are made from renewable and even recycled sources. 

“Developers with an eye towards value and profitability will need to look outside the box.” Ballard stated. “This has to change. We all need to demand it, architects, builders, designers, and even homeowners.” Miami saw growth of 2.1% in just one year, making it one the #6 fastest-growing regions in the entire country. To continue that pace, faster, smarter, and more resilient development options must be embraced.  

3:30 PM Networking Break
4:00 PM

Global Real Estate Investment and Development

Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Principal, Arquitectonica

Sonny Kalsi, Co-CEO, BentallGreenOak

Marcelo Kingston, Managing Partner, Multiplan


Miami as the New Global Epicenter

The global real estate panel brought together three panelists who shared their direct knowledge of diverse  international markets and the rapid innovation and adaptations they are seeing in response to the opportunities and trends accelerated by the pandemic around the world.   Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Principal of Arquitectonica, Sonny Kalsi, Co-CEO of BentallGreenOak, and Marcelo Kingston, Managing Partner of Multiplan spoke about Miami’s contemporary emergence as a global destination that resonates with post-pandemic live-work lifestyle preferences, particularly for tech and venture capital businesses and workers. The three all agreed that many countries and cities haven’t faced such rapid widespread change to the patterns of how and where we live, work and shop since WWII. “Wherever there is an imbalance in the market between industrial, residential, and commercial development, cities are feeling those gaps very acutely,” offered Kalsi. Kingston also highlighted that political stability continues to figure strongly in where companies and people decide to go.

As for Miami, Fort-Brescia noted the evolutionary waves the city has experienced over the past four decades and the persistence of skeptics who have doubted the city’s advancement. He noted that the building blocks of a global city have been nurtured over many years and set the stage for the dramatic transformation of Miami through the pandemic including: favorable taxes and a business-friendly regulatory context; an international atmosphere made possible by a diverse culture, and; a flourishing tropical urbanism of cities and neighborhoods that have been created by sophisticated developers and architects and appeal to tech, venture capital and entrepreneurial companies and workers. Fort-Brescia proudly stated, “Nothing compares, no place I’ve described, is as amazing as what’s happening in Miami.The future here is bright!”   

4:45 PM Networking Break
5:15 PM

Keynote Conversation

Arnaud Karsenti, Managing Principal, 13th Floor Investments

Sandeep Mathrani, CEO, WeWork

Francis X. Suarez, Mayor, City of Miami


Maintaining Momentum

The closing keynote conversation took up the topic of how to sustain and build on Miami’s forward progress as a global, entrepreneurial, tech-friendly city. The discussion began with a question posed by Arnaud Karsenti, Managing Principal of 13th Floor Investments of “just how far can Miami really grow?”

Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of WeWork, and Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of the City of Miami,  answered by examining current facts, and interpreting what those figures mean for future projections. “The City of Miami is enjoying low unemployment at 1.4%. We’re the #1 city in Florida for pandemic recovery, and in the top three in the nation,” said Suarez. “Miami has also been ranked #1 in happiest and healthiest residents. These are solid platforms from which to pursue monumental global-scale expansion.” Suarez, who is a Miami native, recalled how quickly Miami went from the unofficial capital of Latin America to what people now call “The Capital of Capital” because of the large number of start-ups, companies looking to level-up, venture capital firms, and investors who come to Miami. 

“Growth is the ultimate goal of every person in charge, or, at least it should be,” said Mathrani. “Supply and demand are never stagnant, but they have to remain sensibly balanced to attract growth, otherwise people and companies will go elsewhere.” Suarez then shared that the city is seeing an influx of investment at unprecedented levels, and city leadership’s primary goal right now is to make sure that growth can continue. “Miami has the ability to grow 10 times over if we do this smart and we do it scalable. In saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities, we must also be sure we’re saying yes to the greater good of the people of Miami, not just now but for generations to come.”

6:00 PM Lakeside Networking Reception


MEDIA REQUESTS: Any member of the media interested in registering for conference credentials should email Megan Ondrizek with University Communications at