With that focus in mind, the Association put together robust content on the appropriate usage of the federal funds underway and the reactivation of Puerto Rico’s economy.
From earthquakes to a global pandemic, taking on the new challenges that our new reality has forced us all to face, The Puerto Rico Builders Association (PRBA), held its 47th annual convention “Embracing Challenges with a New Mindset”, held on November 10 and 11.
Adopting a digital platform as an essential part of a new way of doing things, this year’s convention aimed to reaffirm the PRBA’s commitment to its members and Puerto Rico through its robust content focusing on the appropriate usage of the federal funds available for the reconstruction that is underway and which must be diligently delivered for the reactivation of Puerto Rico’s economy.
Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr., Chairman of the Board of the PRBA stated that “now more than ever we, at the PRBA, need to reaffirm our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico. Focusing on that, we put together an extraordinary line up with top-class panelists and speakers”.
On our opening day, November 10, our 47th Convention delivered a strong and emotional salute to honor the life and legacy of one of the important pillars of the construction industry, Federico Sánchez-Febles, who’s contribution to the industry and our Island for over 40 years went beyond his career. “There are many things we can remember from Federico. From his success as an engineer, as a business man, as a developer, as a former president of our Association, but it was his passion for life driven by his empathy as a human being, his commitment to our Island, his integrity, and his continuous contribution to the causes he believed that will serve as his incessant legacy”, said Martínez-Álvarez in his opening statement.
The PRBA also had the pleasure of having Puerto Rico’s Governor-Elect, Pedro Pierluisi, who address a few words to our members during the convention’s first day, reassuring his commitment to take on the Island’s reconstruction as a priority, facilitating all the processes to ensure that all funds are used in the most agile way possible.
Opening our second day of convention, Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González, also delivered an update on the progress of the reconstruction of the Island, particularly in the energy and telecommunications sectors, and tourism initiatives. González also gave a preview of her agenda for the next Congress.
Two full days of education and industry-renowned local and national speakers
Throughout the convention our attendees had the opportunity to learn how to approach new possibilities, opportunities, and growth in urban development, city planning, and real estate.
First up was one of the world’s leading urban thinkers and our keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Florida, with his presentation “Restoring Puerto Rico’s Urban Economy”. Being a researcher and professor, serving as University Professor at University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a Distinguished Fellow at NYU’s Schack School of Real Estate, Florida’s contribution during the convention was centered on how we all need to start planning and working towards restoring Puerto Rico’s urban economy, which surely brought important information that will help us lead the way towards that goal. During his speech, Dr. Florida highlighted the fact that “Crisis is an accelerator of great change underway. We have seen, across the world and in Puerto Rico the rise of a new kind of economy: a knowledge economy, an innovation economy, which I call a creative economy. The old economy was about raw materials and industry, and big factories. The new economy is about knowledge, innovation, and creativity. Every single individual is creative, and we have to unlock that creativity in every single young Puerto Rican, the young American, all genders, all races, all sexual orientations, all ethnicities, and COVID19 accelerates all these kinds of transformations”.
Following Florida’s presentation, the convention took a turn at “Economic Development: Taking Advantage of The Available Federal Funding for Puerto Rico”. This first panel, moderated by Waleska Rivera, member of the PRBA’s Board of Directors and president of Danosa Caribbean Inc., was composed of Architect Vanessa de Mari, a Licensed Architect and Real Estate Broker in Puerto Rico; Steven Rawlinson, Acting Federal Financial Monitor Office of Community Planning & Development (CPD) of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Scott Keller, government services partner at HORNE LLP, and Mr. Bryan Koon, former Director at the Florida Division of Emergency Management and currently serves as IEM’s Vice President of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
In a very rich discussion, the panelists shared their view on federal and private investment for the permanent, safer and resilient reconstruction of the Island following the awakening of the past hurricanes Irma and María, and more recently the earthquakes and a global pandemic. Despite the devastating effects of these events that posed great challenges, Puerto Rico has now a window of opportunity with the federal funding coming in from different programs such as the CDBG-DR that can put the Island in a position to “create an entirely new and improved Puerto Rico that still has the core, the culture, the people, and the feel that you have now that offers so much to residents, businesses and investors going forward”, said Koon.
“From Earthquakes to Pandemics” was the last session of the first day of this 47th annual convention was framed on an interview performed by former PRBA Chairman and member of the Board of Directors, Architect Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz to the former HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan. During the interview, Donovan emphasized that in the moments of crisis “there is also opportunity to really profoundly rethink the strategy. This is what we tried to do after [hurricanes] Katrina and Sandy. To use the opportunity of rebuilding, not just to build back what was there before but to build back better. To build back better, for example with climate change, to build back more resiliently so that when the next storm comes you don’t have the challenges… Also, one of the big opportunities for Puerto Rico is that in recovery, especially when there is this much CDBG funding as Puerto Rico has at this point, there’s gotta be a laser focus on employment, and the jobs that can be created through the construction….”.
The second day of the convention kicked off with the topic Post Pandemic Survival, presented by city planner and urban designer Jeff Speck. Leader of Speck & Associates, an award-winning private design consultancy serving public officials and the real estate industry, Speck shared the key points on the importance of designing walkable cities. According to the TED Talk superstar, “the general theory of walkability asks a question: how do you get people to walk? In our cities, in our towns, how do you get people to walk when driving is so easy? It is not easy to have people make that choice, to walk. If people are going to make that choice, then you have to do 4 things: the walk has to be useful, safe, interesting, and comfortable”,
As the day unfolded, Real Estate industry in times of COVID19 to the transformation of Puerto Rico’s electric grid and its infrastructure were among the topics addressed on the last day of our virtual convention.
The second panel Economic Development: Energy Infrastructure and the future of Puerto Rico took place. Moderated by one of the PRBA Board Members, Patricio Martínez-Lorenzo, Esq., the panel featured Natalie Jaresko, Executive Director of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, Lawrence Seilhamer, a Licensed Engineer and former State Senator for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Wayne Stensby, President and CEO of LUMA Energy.
The forty- seventh annual convention panels and keynote participation finalized with Dr. Richard Peiser, the first Michael D. Spear Professor of Real Estate Development in the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Dr. Peiser broaden on Real Estate Industry at a Crossroads.
Recognizing passion and commitment
The two-day virtual event closed with the annual Award Ceremony presented to industry members and projects for their impact on different spectrums:
- Builder of the Year: Creative Development
- Best For sale Affordable Community: Terrazas del Monte- VRM
- Best for Sale Residential Market Rate Community-Single Family: Rotonda @Downtown Guaynabo- Brito Development
- Associated Member of the Year: Kevane Grant Thornton, LLP – María de Los Ángeles Rivera
- Professional Member of the Year: Able Insurance- Pablo Dardet
- Banker of the Year: Alexis Aguiar from FirstBank
- Public Official of the Year: Luis Carlos Fernández Trinchet, Esq., Puerto Rico Housing Department Secretary
- Best Residential Rental Community: Plaza Águila INDESOVI – Juan Sabathé and Luis Rodríguez
- Best Luxury-Resort Residential Community: East-Beach @ Dorado Beach Ritz Carlton Reserve Residences
- Best Commercial Impact: Revitalization of San Patricio Plaza Town Center by Empresas Caparra
- Best Social Impact Project: Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico by Desarrollos Metropolitano, LLC
Also, like every year, the PRBA recognizes individuals whose passion and commitment for the betterment of our Island surpass our standards. This year the Presidential Awards, presented by our Chairman Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr., were awarded to:
- Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, Partner and CEO of AD&V Architecture and Interior Design
- Emilio Colón-Zavala, PE, President and CEO at ECZ Group Inc.
- Patricio Martínez-Lorenzo, Esq., Environmental, Natural Resources & Utilities Practitioner
- Efraín Maldonado Ramírez, Esq., Field Office Director of the HUD San Juan Office
- Josué Rivera, State Director of the USDA, Rural Development in Puerto Rico
- Francisco G. Arteaga, PE, CEO of CPM International