Blending Practice and Research to Explore New Real Estate Opportunities

The World Real Estate Forum (WREF) unites practitioners, innovators, entrepreneurs, and academics across the built environment and real estate sector to explore solutions to pressing challenges facing the industry. The 2024 WREF, hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on June 17th and 18th, will investigate changes started or accelerated during the pandemic, such as remote work or the need for affordable housing. The forum will blend the experiences of professionals tackling challenges presented by these shifts in real time as well as new findings from research to craft actionable interventions to capitalize on opportunities created by these changes. “In anticipation of this year’s forum, held on the MIT Center for Real Estate’s (MIT/CRE) 40th anniversary, we gathered a number of our distinguished panelists to offer glimpses of why we and they think WREF is so special and valuable to the development community,” says Kairos Shen, Executive Director and Associate Professor of the Practice at MIT/CRE. 

Dror Poleg, author of Rethinking Real Estate and the forthcoming After the Office, centers his work on the future of work, cities, and markets. Blending analysis of finance, technology, and human behavior, he envisions emerging trends such as the current reshuffle of offices, homes, and economic activity. Poleg will join a panel focused on how technology is shaping the way and where we work moderated by James Scott. “I am interested in going beyond the common narratives about empty offices and the urban reshuffle. This involves exploring the long-term technological and economic shifts reshaping our society and examining the critical role of cities and buildings in facilitating opportunity, prosperity, and dignity for all Americans,” says Poleg. “To understand the future, it’s crucial to grasp the perspectives of different players—investors, developers, government officials, and researchers. At MIT, I get to be in the room with top experts from all these industries and learn about what’s on their minds right now. I also have the opportunity to share my insights and help nudge the world a few inches forward.”

Jenny Wu (MS RED ‘12), Managing Director of Development for Jonathan Rose Companies, will join a panel focused on affordable housing moderated by Albert Saiz. Wu is responsible for leading Jonathan Rose Companies’ green development projects. In that role, she has developed over 1,800 units across a diverse affordable and mixed-income projects and has another 2,700 units in pre development stages. “Transitioning from an architecture background to MIT without prior finance knowledge felt like drinking from a fire hose. MIT’s reputation for interdisciplinary approach and emphasis on innovation and problem-solving provided an immersive experience,” says Wu. “What truly stood out during my time there was the emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, working effectively with architects, planners, and various stakeholders, drawing from diverse perspectives and expertise to craft innovative solutions. This adaptability has proven invaluable in navigating the multifaceted challenges inherent in real estate development. I am excited to return to MIT for WREF to re-immerse in this unique environment.”

Roberto Rigobon is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management and a Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His research examines the causes of financial crises and their transboundary propagation as well as possible alternative measures of inflation. At WREF Rigobon will lead an interactive simulation to ascertain how audience members value environmental performance. “Research has shown that people do not learn from research products – for example journal papers. People actually learn from experience and experimentation; from trial and error,” says Rigobon. “So, the game we will play is one in which we – the audience included – make real choices between different objectives that must be weighed against real tradeoffs. Through this experience, more so than any other conference, you might learn who you are and what you stand for.”


View the complete WREF Agenda of speakers and panels