The fall Chapter 31 seminar of the International Right of Way Association was held in person, on October 23rd. Due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, there were new health-safety implementations. There was an offered online component for those who might feel uncomfortable attending in-person. Additionally, more events were centered around outside activities like the Thursday night barbecue kickoff. According to North by Northwest Consulting’s Appraiser Trainees Natalie Lathan and Erin Hogge, all indoor components of the conference required attendees to wear a mask and maintain social distance.
Nonetheless, these new aspects of attending the conference did not detract from the groundbreaking field information shared by the speakers. Neither did it diminish the breathtaking beauty of Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina where the seminar was held. In a conversation about the key takeaways from the event, Natalie and Erin mentioned two stand out presentations “The Future of the Lowcountry Lowline” by Scott Parker, Board Member of the Lowline project, and “Drones & Autonomous Vehicles; Changes on the Horizon for the Right of Way Community” by Frank Mundy, Vice President of Stewart’s Geomatics Services, including survey.
First, the proposed Lowcountry Lowline project is an ambitious goal to reclaim 1.7 miles of abandoned and derelict railway track. The goal is to convert it into a long community park that would connect three districts in central Charleston. The project is similar in vision to the High Line linear park in NYC. The High Line created an elevated park and walkway out of a disused and defunct railway line.
A completed Lowline project would significantly transform the landscape of Charleston. This would support communities by giving pedestrians and cyclists dedicated space, as well as allow for more recreational activities. It would allow for better water management for the peninsula. And encourage the greening of the space to support the ecosystem. This project was particularly inspiring to the North by Northwest team. If it is possible in Charleston, it’s definitely possible in much of North Carolina. There are plenty of former industrial spaces and disused railway lines in North Carolina. For instance, North by Northwest Consulting handled the appraisal of the Glen Rock Hotel renovation, which aimed to revive a century-old building with a varied past.
Future Technology in Right of Way
The presentation that focused on drones and the future of technology in the Right of Way community was illuminating. Erin and Natalie described the implications for the industry’s future. Presenter Frank Mundy predicted that by 2040 Drone technology will change the way appraisals happen and the way appraisers work. Natalie explained, “everything we appraise has to be in eyesight, at the moment, which limits how we can use drones. However, the DOT just approved droves for bridge engineers. And North Carolina is one of the first states to approve drone use in surveying. This opens doors for the future of the industry here.” The use of drones is also having an impact in the age of Covid. Hospitals have been using drones to carry hospital supplies and blood.
Overall, the seminar provided encouraging visions for the future of the appraisal industry. It examined how new technology and repurposed designs for abandoned industry features can reshape our communities. We can ultimately change the landscape of how and where we work. The conference was an excellent networking opportunity. It provided a great reason to travel to a new area and encounter innovative ideas in the field.