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Speakers at CCA Panel Tell Business Community to Hold On

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, January 16, 2009, at 11:31AM

Developer Harlan Lee didn't mince words when giving his advice for 2009. "Hang in, hang in, hang in, and and keep hanging in," Lee told the audience at the Central City Association's "Staying Alive Through 2009."

He predicted that when residential development does rebound, the product will be "smaller, cheaper, more energy efficient and more salable."

Lee was one of four panelists at the event, held in the Wilshire Grand's Pacific Ballroom. He told the crowd that the current downturn was his 9th in a 50 year career, and that the experience provided perspective about how to get through it.

Lee said that the current downturn has caused his company to reassess its role, and brought about a new business in acquiring and finishing troubled projects.

Also on the panel was Bill Witte, President of Related Companies. His firm is the developer on the delayed Grand Avenue Project. While Witte didn't address the project directly, he did tell a story about The Paramount, a 43-story residential tower in San Francisco. Related won a bid to develop the site as an office tower in the 1980s, just before the office market fell apart. After a long delay, the company got approvals to move forward on a housing tower, and Witte said that the project was a "home run." His message: development takes patience.

Witte wasn't bullish on a quick recovery. "In the short term, 2009 is not going to be pretty," he said.

Rounding out the panel were Lew Horne, Executive Managing Director of CB Richard Ellis; Lois Ingham, Managing Director of Wilmington Trust in Los Angeles; and moderator Leslie Appleton Young, Vice President and Chief Economist for the California Association of Realtors.

At the meeting, the Central City Association voted in its new slate of Executive Officers, chaired by Phil Recht of law firm Mayer Brown. Recht's background includes a stint with as Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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