ULI-Louisiana member Mike Bucher is a commercial real estate professional and developer for Urban Properties. Mike serves as membership chair for the council and programming chair for the annual ULI-Louisiana Emerging Trends Conference. We recently sat down with Mike to learn more about his background, development experience, and involvement with ULI-Louisiana.
ULI: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to your current role with ULI-Louisiana?
MB: My background in commercial real estate started with Federal Realty Investment Trust in Boston, MA. I was working on one of the largest mixed-use developments in metro Boston as a development financial analyst, a role that evolved into a development/project management role over time. I first became involved with ULI in Boston, and it has been integral to my professional growth in the real estate industry. When I moved to New Orleans in 2014, it was a no-brainer for me to join as a way to quickly engage with the real estate community in the Greater New Orleans area. I became the Membership Chair in the summer of 2016, and along with the membership committee, am working to expand our member base – and member engagement – across Louisiana.
ULI: Prior to joining Urban Properties, you spent almost three years working for one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the Gulf South – can you talk about the transition and differences in your day-to-day routine?
MB: My entire career prior to joining Urban Properties has been spent with large regional and national real estate firms, so the transition to Urban has been an exciting new challenge for me. Urban is a young company (founded three years ago), and our main development focus is mixed-use, infill projects within the City of New Orleans. During my time here, we have expanded our services in the region, and are now working on projects in Slidell and Biloxi, MS. The entire team has a very entrepreneurial mindset, and without the resources of a larger firm, we have to fill many different roles, which is the biggest difference – and challenge – in my daily routine.
ULI: You started your career up in the Northeast and have a ton of experience New Orleans – can you describe the differences and similarities (if any) between the two markets?
MB: I was primarily an office developer in Boston, a market in which it was common for real estate developers to focus on a specific asset class. That isn’t necessarily the case in New Orleans, and it has forced me to become more adept at understanding all asset classes, including retail, multi-family, hotel, etc. Also, Boston has experienced a vast economic transformation over the past decade, and New Orleans is still trying to find it’s footing in many ways. Issues related to economic development, infrastructure, transportation, etc., that I took for granted in the northeast remain huge challenges, and in some cases, impediments, to real estate development in New Orleans. However, both are small cities at heart, with strong communities that are focused on smart growth and development. The projects might be different, but the development process (community engagement, inclusion, sustainability) are very much the same.
ULI: What kind of challenges are you currently dealing with in the industry?
MB: I think the argument that we have reached a saturation point in New Orleans with market-rate apartments, condominiums, retail, hotel rooms, etc. is valid. There are still opportunities across the board, but developers need to be very creative about the projects they take on and the markets that they serve. Currently, Urban is working on the redevelopment of an underutilized industrial site on the Lafitte Greenway, a historic renovation of a former deli/grocery store in upper Treme into mixed-use, and the conversion of a former electronics store in Slidell into a trampoline park. The diversity of projects and product types is unlike any organization that I have worked for in the past.
ULI: Any advice you would give to the Mike Bucher of 5 years ago?
MB: Tough question… in the last five years I got married, moved to New Orleans, had two kids, and started a new job. So I guess if I were to go back and give myself some advice it would be to slow down… but I wouldn’t have listened to it.
ULI: What’s your favorite part about living in New Orleans?
MB: Saints games at the Dome.