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News & opinion

22 MAR 2018

The Miami Summit takes a political turn

The Miami Summit was the third of seven conferences in the Summit Series in the Americas and it was tinged with a political undercurrent. While in Houston and San Francisco future planning was optimistic, any talk of the future is more uncertain in Florida where sea level rise threatens to wipe out most of the state. Action is required and the key to gaining momentum when the stakes are high is knowledge sharing.

The day started off with an address by former mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine who outlined the steps he took to make Miami Beach more resilient: raising roads, pumps, generators and sea walls were some of the measures introduced to keep the city above water.

He said his message was clear: “You have a choice, you can live in Atlantis or Miami Beach. We need to get going. And the people said you’re 100% right. Do it.” 

One solution is to densify and develop high areas and shift out of flood plains. We can change how we develop here, build higher and more in the areas that will be around longer.

Keren Bolter

Improving infrastructure is expensive and disruptive to the public who end up stuck in traffic as roads are dug up. Levine warned other regions facing similar threats of the need to maintain the confidence of the voters, the market and of investors. 

Building on the theme of resiliency in Florida, Keren Bolter is a risk modeler with Arcadis who shared her expertise on the rising sea levels. She stressed the need to communicate the risk and to educate the public on what can be done to mitigate it. Her message was to take advantage of the natural ridges in Florida's geography. "One solution is to densify and develop high areas and shift out of flood plains. We can change how we develop here, build higher and more in the areas that will be around longer."

PropTech brings data to decision making

We had a strong PropTech panel that spoke to the importance of data-driven decision-making. The challenge they face is in relaying the story that the data provides useful context and that transparency will provide more solutions than risk. Innovation in this sector will come from collaboration: the culture of partnerships and data-sharing.

The White House struggles with infrastructure spending

Communicating with stakeholders is a means of building confidence to enable projects to move forward rather than face delays. In the afternoon, we were joined by retired congressman John Mica who is one of the most knowledgeable leaders in transportation and infrastructure and able to provide a view from Washington on what to expect from an unpredictable president.

Mica explained that the current administration hasn't been successful in getting projects off the ground despite the president's focus on infrastructure. Some of that is due to the lack of experience held by those in office which has stifled their ability to coordinate with congress. But there's also a lot of top jobs that remain unfilled. "It's bad enough when you have a bureaucrat in place, but when you don't have anyone in the job, things get really left behind."

Still, he stressed that the administration is learning from its mistakes and as time is running short between now and the next election, he ended with a note of optimism in the administration's desire to regain the confidence of voters. His experience in Washington has proved that when elections loom, actions are taken.

"The President is like everyone else. He's not a politician. If you put your hand on the stove, you get burned and learn not to put your hand on the stove. This is going to be an interesting year – stay tuned."

Stay tuned with RICS for more highlights from the Summit Series.