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LOS ANGELES-Capital markets were still clicking along at a steady pace and cap rates remained razor thin a year ago when more than 1,000 top commercial real estate professionals gathered in Los Angeles for Real Estate 2007, the annual RealShare Conference Series review, forecast, conference and networking event hosted by Real Estate Media. What a difference a year makes!

Commercial real estate experts are still trying to figure our where the capital markets are going, cap rates are inching upward, certain deals that looked good a year ago don’t pencil out now, and some opportunity funds have already sprung up to take advantage of bargains they expect to find as distressed owners look to sell or take in an equity partner to survive. Against the backdrop of this year’s very different commercial real estate markets, more than 1,000 of the industry’s top professionals are expected to gather again this year at Real Estate 2008 on Thursday, March 6 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel at 404 S. Figueroa St. in Downtown Los Angeles.

Considering the dramatic differences in the economic landscape, “It has truly never been more important for the real estate community to come out and try to get their arms around what is really going on in the markets today,” says Rich Kelley, director of the RealShare series. “No one seems to know what the state of the markets is right now, and what to expect in the coming months, so one way to put yourself in the best position to capitalize on the changes in the market is to come out and network with these top-tier professionals.”

Beginning with breakfast/registration at 7 a.m. and continuing through a networking and cocktail party at 5 p.m., Real Estate 2008, part of the RealShare series produced by Real Estate Media, promises to deliver a full day of presentations, keynote remarks and panel discussions that will offer some of the most perceptive and comprehensive observations and analyses of commercial real estate that can be found anywhere, Kelley says.

Among the highlights of this year’s conference will be the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to John Cushman III, chairman of Cushman & Wakefield and one of the most prominent office leasing brokers ever. The presentation is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. during a day in which Real Estate 2008 will feature 11 panel sessions with a roster of 70 speakers who will address everything from the national and regional economic outlook to the prospects for office, industrial, retail and multifamily investment and development. The ongoing impact of the credit crunch on the capital markets and lending environment will also be thoroughly addressed.

The conference will open for registration from 7 a.m. and will kick off at 8:10 a.m. with opening remarks by Michael Desiato, group publisher and editorial director of Real Estate Media. The first session, at 8:15 a.m., will be a keynote address on emerging real estate issues by Stan Ross, chairman of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, which will be followed by the first panel of the day. The panelists will tackle the question of how economic forces, financial markets and political developments will affect commercial real estate.

Following a 9:15 a.m. networking break, brokers will get their first chance to take the stage in a 9:35 a.m. panel titled “Tales from the Trenches.” In it, top brokerage executives from the industry’s preeminent companies will discuss deal flow, pricing and client expectation sin today’s market. The next panel carries the title “Development is Back!” and will feature top executives from development firms answering the question: “Will projects move forward in the face of a credit crunch, still escalating construction costs, entitlement hurdles and a recession?

Following an 11:30 a.m. networking break, the first set of concurrent sessions will offer three choices: One session will explore whether the uncertain economy will prove friend or foe for multifamily investment and development, another will ask whether the industrial supply chain will prove resilient during an economic slowdown, and the third will examine ways in which the greening of commercial real estate can prove profitable for building owners and industry pros.

Next up after the morning concurrent sessions will be a networking lunch, followed by the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Cushman. The award will be presented by prominent Los Angeles attorney Ronald Olson, senior partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson. A short break will follow the award presentation, after which the afternoon concurrent sessions will begin. The three choices will include a panel on whether the office market can weather the coming economic storm, a session on the outlook for for retail and mixed-use investment and development, and a third panel addressing the question of whether value-add, net lease, distressed loan and TIC deals are the next big thing in the investment market.

Following a break, a general session will feature a panel of prominent financial services executives tackling the topic: “The capital market conumdrum–when will the market emerge from the credit crunch and what will the new market realities be when it does.?” Next will follow three concurrent special presentations, one on private equity funds titled “The quiet before the storm,” one on “taking advantage of the changing insurance market” and one titled “The Subprime Market: From Crash to Burn?” The final presentation of the day will be a general session panel discussion of how to source deals, secure financing and close deals in today’s unsettled investment market.

The event will conclude with a cocktail hour and networking session designed to provide “more opportunity to learn and network,” Kelley observes. The Real Estate 2008 conference and other RealShare events are produced by Real Estate Media, publishers of GlobeSt.com, Real Estate Forum magazine and Real Estate Southern California magazine.

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