As the executive director of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Atlanta, which is located in Galleria 300, Jeff DuFresne is one of the leading experts on the real estate and development issues facing the metro area. We recently got a chance to chat with Jeff about those issues, as well as his extensive career, ULI Atlanta’s mission and his favorite feature of the Galleria.
A hearty thanks to Jeff for his time and insight!
DuFresne: The Urban Land Institute (ULI), founded in 1936, is a global nonprofit with 30,000 members representing the entire spectrum of the real estate development industry. ULI Atlanta serves as the regional steward of the Institute and is charged with providing leadership in the responsible use of land and creating and sustaining thriving communities in the Southeast. We fulfill this mission by providing educational programs, technical assistance and the Center for Leadership, as well as networking opportunities for our members.
AG: Give us an overview of your career: how long have you been at ULI Atlanta, and what did you do before working for this organization?
DuFresne: I moved to Atlanta with my new bride in 1985. I spent the next 20 years working in the institutional real estate investment/development field, first for insurance companies (Prudential Real Estate Investors and New York Life) and then for a pension fund (DIHC, which coincidently owned Galleria 200 at the time and where I had the pleasure of working with some great folks of a relatively new company called Childress Klein Properties). Finally, I worked for opportunity funds (LNR Property Corporation and Colonnade Properties). Besides Galleria 200, I oversaw such developments and investments as 191 Peachtree Tower, Peachtree Center and Centennial Tower.
When we sold the final fund, I wanted to give back to the industry that had been good to me, so I joined the non-profit ULI as an executive director in 2005.
AG: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges metro Atlanta faces in terms of land use and development? And what are the factors most working in the metro area’s favor?
DuFresne: Much has changed since the boom years as our city embarks on a very different path of development. It’s no longer the poster child for sprawl, as our civic leaders and the real estate community have discovered that walkable urban places are the kind of communities that people want.
Not only do such places attract the vaunted highly educated young technology worker by offering a higher quality lifestyle, but these places are inherently more affordable for people, because they extract many of the costs of the automobile from the household budget (as well as time spent in traffic). For this reason, the biggest challenge (and opportunity) facing metro Atlanta is to embrace this type of development, which is closely akin to transit-oriented development.
AG: Favorite thing about having your office in the Atlanta Galleria?
DuFresne: The food trucks in the Garden, where I can consume vast quantities of food that my wife doesn’t allow me to eat at home.