BOSTON-Opinions–many divergent–were plentiful at this year’s RealShare Boston symposium, as commercial real estate professionals and other experts wrangled over the depth and breadth of the rebound that has crept along regionally since 2004. Keynote speaker Barry Bluestone offered perhaps the harshest assessment in kicking off Wednesday’s program at the Back Bay Hilton, while others downplayed the political economist’s figures rating Boston as the priciest area to live among 304 metros and showing the state outmaneuvered in population by the likes of North Dakota.

Economically, “we are still significantly behind the rest of the US,” relayed Bluestone in reporting that 63,000 natives have fled Massachusetts since 2000 to destinations as far a field as Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. The most troubling aspect, he said, is that the 25- to 34-year-old age group is leading the exodus, thinning a segment critical to survival of any community. “We are seeding Red Sox nation” beyond New England, Bluestone advised to the RealShare Boston audience of 375 attendees, imploring stakeholders to “redouble efforts” to reduce housing costs and stem the outflow.

Speaking only for a few minutes, Bluestone’s remarks resonated throughout the half-day conference, as the Northeastern University professor’s outlook was supported several times by some and challenged by contrarians. Veteran Boston broker William McCall, who spoke immediately after Bluestone, also fretted over tepid state employment levels, which despite an 8,000-position increase in the first quarter, is still down by 100,000 since the recession of 2001 took hold. “I’m having a hard time believing we’re going to sustain [the recovery] because we’re not creating enough jobs–it’s as simple as that,” said McCall, who also questioned the ability of landlords to push office rents and talk that new speculative office space is needed in Boston.

McCall’s discussion was engendered by a “Fact or Fiction” program in which Paradigm Properties president Kevin McCall and the un-related broker answered either/or to nine questions, then elaborated on their selections. RealShare Boston offered a variety of formats to keep the topics fresh and create interaction among the roster of high-level speakers and the audience. Iconic Boston developers Thomas Alperin, Ronald Druker and Stephen Karp participated in a town meeting arrangement in which they assessed local market trends and handicapped the industry’s ability to compete in an increasingly tight financial environment.

The financial arena was further vetted during a panel moderated by Boston investment sales legend Robert Griffin and in one of several concurrent sessions that brought together debt and equity talent from such firms as Citibank, GE Capital Real Estate, CBRE

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