ULI’s 2014 Fall Meeting in New York City was a blockbuster—with more than 6,200 attendees, including a record num­ber of nearly 4,700 paid registrants; a record $3.7 million in sponsorship revenue; numerous sold-out mobile tours of the area’s most innovative developments; a record 880 new members joining ULI to attend the meeting; and an agenda so filled with knowledge sharing that the closing concurrent sessions on the final day drew standing-room-only crowds.

I want to extend special thanks to the Program Committee and chair Mary Ludgin; our Steering Committee, co-chaired by Jeff Blau and Rob Speyer; and our Host Committee, chaired by Cia Buckley Marakovits and Marty Burger, whose extraordinary work made the meeting so successful.

It was also a Fall Meeting of firsts. We introduced a new meeting format that emphasized a different theme on each of the meeting’s three full days of programming: leadership, industry trends, and negotiating deals in the current economic environment.

The leadership theme was reflected in our first-ever Fall Meeting Gala, held in the “whale room” of the American Museum of Natural History. The event—a fundraiser sponsored by the ULI Foundation—honored ULI leader and industry icon Michael Fascitelli, whose wit and wisdom have livened up countless real estate sessions at our major meetings. We also recognized the first-ever class of Urban Land magazine’s 40 Under 40—an impressive group of younger professionals who are already making an impact on the industry.

Keynoter Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase chief executive officer, offered frank comments on his approach to leadership during booms as well as busts. (“Treat all employees equally . . . they are all working to make the company great.”) And, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio demonstrated his leadership in describing his commitment to Housing New York, a bold plan to create or preserve 200,000 affordable homes and apartments over ten years.

The trends theme was highlighted by the release of the much-anticipated Emerging Trends in Real Estate report, which named Houston—coincidentally, the site of ULI’s 2015 Spring Meeting—as the top market for investment and development next year. A trend identified in the report and in several education sessions: the continued rise of markets other than the largest coastal cities as top choices for overall real estate prospects. Another recurring topic: niche development being replaced by development that is multigenerational in appeal, meeting the intersecting needs of millennials and baby boomers (exclusivity is out; inclusivity is in).

On “deals day,” we heard from Tishman Speyer President and CEO and Fall Meeting Steering Committee Cochair Rob Speyer, who told us that global urbanization represents the “biggest development opportunity in the history of the planet”—provided that the development community correctly responds to the new preferences and needs of those who are moving to cities. The day was capped by ULI’s highly popular version of a “shark tank” (a mixed-use proposal for Brooklyn got the figurative nod); as well as updates on three of New York City’s most transformative projects: the World Trade Center; Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards); and Hudson Yards, which Related Companies Chairman Stephen Ross predicted would be the “center of gravity” for the city. (Related is codeveloping the project with Oxford Properties Group.)

The intent of the new Fall Meeting format was to be more responsive to attendees’ time constraints and to allow everyone greater flexibility to take advantage of programming and events that matched their interests. I’m pleased to report that it worked well—members told us they appreciated the clarity of the program structure, and the more efficient use of their time.

Another first for the meeting: The addition of a social media component to the ULI Events app that allowed attendees to share experiences, opinions, and takeaway lessons in real time, and to see their posts on a large “member wall” that captured the meeting’s nonstop energy from start to finish. (The enhancement resulted in record usage of the app.) Also well received were new face-to-face networking opportunities to bring the most experienced professionals together with industry newcomers.

In many ways, the Fall Meeting reflects the best of ULI: thought leadership, knowledge-sharing, and giving back. It’s the culmination of work that the Institute conducts throughout the year—work that is made possible by the ULI Foundation. Gifts to ULI made through the Foundation support many of the ongoing services, activities, and member-to-member meetups that inspire much of the programming for the Fall Meeting. The Foundation provides the underpinning for the Institute’s efforts to create thriving communities; from our research on housing, sustainability, resilience, healthy places, and capital markets, to our awards that celebrate best practices in development. All of this is backed by the Foundation—and in particular, the Foundation’s Annual Fund.

As we come to the close of 2014, I encourage all of you to give to the Foundation’s Annual Fund. We are making great progress toward reaching our goal of $1.6 million for the Annual Fund this year—and with your contributions, we can keep ULI’s momentum strong in 2015.

Help us continue ULI’s day-to-day work that makes the Fall Meeting, and the Institute’s other global events—the ULI Europe conference, ULI Spring Meeting, and Asia Pacific Real Estate Summit—so informative, productive, and worthy of ULI’s reputation for great convenings. Your investment in ULI, through a donation to the Annual Fund, will ensure that each of these events raises the bar for the next one, and, as a result, further expands ULI’s impact around the globe.