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Notes from Emerging Trends

Last month, Atlanta-based Lend Lease Real Estate Investments and New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers officially rolled out Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2000 (ET), their annual commercial real estate study, at Atlanta's Swissotel. Parts of Emerging Trends are basic conventional wisdom - Class-A office in 24-hour CBDs is a strong bet; older suburban office and "9-to-5 suburban agglomeration markets" are not. But interviewees' comments are perhaps more telling about the state of commercial real estate and the mindset of the players.

* With real estate (almost) fully integrated into the capital markets, greater liquidity exists, but so does greater short-term volatility. "In the '80s, the markets took eight years to slow down. Now, it takes eight minutes," one interviewee noted.

* Real estate in the United States has attracted overseas investors since John Smith landed in Virginia in 1607, but someone always gets a little carried away. German investors bidding up prices concerns many. "While they're not overpaying like the Japanese did in the 1980s, the Germans should be more careful at this point in the cycle, many investors believe," says Tom Kirtland, director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Capital Markets Group, one of Emerging Trends' presenters.

* Technology's affect on growth and how space is used is also a concern. Again, if your office investments don't have the flexibility tenants demand and can't handle technological demands either, it might be time for a new plan. "The logic's pretty simple," an ET interviewee said. "If technology makes space less important, then companies are learning to do without it."

And ET reports that redevelopment is a viable option - especially with the resurgence of many CBDs. "Developers, investors and local governments have the opportunity to get it right this time," an interviewee said.

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