Reimagining Southwest Florida: The Counselors of Real Estate

By Gary Tasman

Many people are surprised to learn that as commercial property brokers, our role at Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida (CPSWFL) goes far beyond simply buying, selling, and leasing real estate.  While real estate transactions are certainly our core business, we strive to offer added value to our clients.  Our experience and knowledge of our local market and economic drivers, combined with local and global research and analytics, allow us to provide our clients with nuanced insights. This empowers them to make smart decisions, whether they’re seeking to buy or sell an investment property, relocate a business, or develop a previously vacant parcel.

This service—essentially consulting and counseling—has allowed us to become one of the architects of our region’s commercial development landscape. We’ve assisted large corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as they seek to solve problems, discover hidden opportunities, and adapt to the evolution of our rapidly growing region.

While CPSWFL largely assists clients in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte Counties, there is another entity that is looking at the future of our region and offering their insight into the possibilities Southwest Florida holds. That entity is known as the Counselors of Real Estate, and their work will change Southwest Florida as we know it.

Who Are the Counselors of Real Estate?

The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) are a collective of problem solvers. This team of international experts offers unbiased advice on complex matters, including large scale property and development issues. Its credentialed members include real estate brokers, developers, economists, futurists, academics, investors, and experts from the financial and legal realms. Together, they are renowned for “applying rigorous, independent, and informed analysis to complex real estate decisions facing their clientele.”

The CRE’s clientele is equally as diverse as its membership. They include government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, investment management firms, developers, pension endowments, appraisers, bankers, architectural and engineering firms, real estate investment trusts, and others.

One of the Counselors of Real Estate’s largest initiatives is the CRE Consulting Corps.  This public service program aids nonprofits, educational institutions, and government entities with real estate analysis and action plans on a pro bono basis. This team of CRE volunteers recently advised the Town of Paradise, California on how to rebuild after the Camp Fire of 2018, one of the most destructive disasters in state history. More recently, the Consulting Corps advised the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde in Oregon on how to redevelop an industrialized parcel that had once been tribal ancestral homelands.

CRE Consulting Corps in Southwest Florida

Why have the Counselors of Real Estate turned their attention to Southwest Florida?  Because of one of the most ambitious initiatives ever seen in our region.

18 months ago, our friends at the Collaboratory (formerly the Southwest Florida Community Foundation) announced their community initiative to solve all of Southwest Florida’s social problems on an 18-year deadline.

Of course, issues like hunger, domestic violence, transportation, homelessness, childhood education, poverty, public safety, addiction, nutrition, and poverty are not unique to Southwest Florida. At first glance, these challenges may all seem like individual issues.  However, Collaboratory CEO Sarah Owen recognizes the interconnectivity between these issues, and understands that our region’s future development sets the stage for how we manage — and hopefully solve — these complex problems.

If you’re familiar with systems theory, you understand that Southwest Florida’s social challenges don’t exist in a vacuum. Defined as “[a] theory of interacting processes and the way they influence each other over time to permit the continuity of some larger whole,” systems theory can apply to science, nature, business, and of course, society.

Typically, we address these challenges with a siloed approach. There are hundreds of nonprofits and initiatives across Southwest Florida that do important work tackling issues on an individual basis. However, because these matters are interconnected — or as the Collaboratory says, “entangled”— their progress is limited because each of these issues exists in a system that created or nurtured it.

Instead of tackling individual problems, the Collaboratory hopes to rebuild the system that has enabled these problems. But, as Owen explained to us on the season finale of our “What’s Developing in Southwest Florida” podcast, “as we begin to reimagine what our region could be, our natural instinct right is just to build it back exactly as it was.”  Her team at the Collaboratory knows that sometimes it takes an unbiased outsider — or a team of them — to help us understand our own challenges.

Creating a Thriving, Developing Southwest Florida

If you’re a regular reader of our articles, then you understand how development plays a role in our region’s success. As our population continues to surge, our need increases for more utility, transportation, and communication infrastructure. Our airports expand, creating a demand for more jobs in the tourism and service industries. Higher housing demand for our many new residents pushes out low-income buyers, creating an affordable housing crisis. Challenges like these, and many others, will be tackled by the CRE Consulting Corps as they evaluate and advise the Collaboratory and community leaders across Southwest Florida.

The Corps is focused on transforming communities through understanding the region’s challenges. The goal of these experts is to create a realistic, feasible, and achievable road map for solving the community’s concerns. In the Fall of 2022, Corps members visited Southwest Florida at the Collaboratory’s request, to analyze our market and listen to stakeholders. At CPSWFL, our Commercial Property Experts had the opportunity to meet with the Corps to share our knowledge of the development landscape in Southwest Florida.

Shortly after their visit, Hurricane Ian hit our region, and the Corps visited again with experts in disaster response and recovery. They will continue to return to offer their expertise on not only the Collaboratory’s 18-year plan, but also on how to reimagine our community after the hurricane.

Those that fear that outsiders will be dictating our region’s growth need not worry. Community input and feedback is an essential component of the Collaboratory’s 18-year plan. As Owen told us on our podcast, “Sanibel has its own character. The people there are going to have to be involved about what that looks like. Fort Myers Beach has its own character pre- and post-Hurricane Ian.”  Owen adds, “There’s going to be lots of opportunities in the recovery efforts, particularly for the community, to come together, and for everybody involved in the rebuilding to deeply listen.”

Solving our community’s challenges is not — and will not ever be — a solo effort. At Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida, we are proud to play an integral role as our region builds back better, smarter, and stronger. I for one, look forward to the future of Southwest Florida.

Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida is invested in the growth of our region. Contact our team of Commercial Property Experts by calling 239-489-3600 or completing the form below.

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