"Real estate is almost always dominated by a strong personality. Some have more sensitivity than others to the current issues of our time, but nevertheless, it is a highly personal creative product of a very creative neurotic." —James Graaskamp, 1987.
No one's calling Wisconsin real estate alum Brant Glomb a neurotic, but creative is an adjective he'll gladly live with.
Take Metropoint, the 918,500-square foot business park in St. Louis Park, west of Minneapolis' central business district, that Glomb's company, BPG Properties Ltd., acquired last summer. The campus was tired and worn, featuring a 1970s-era, five-screen cinema that had long been shuttered and four office buildings, including a 20-story tower only two-thirds leased. As part of his job, Brant had been expected to find exactly just dispirited properties as these and gussy them up again. And that second-run theater met exactly those criteria.
"It was an eyesore," Glomb says, hesitating slightly, as if the structure had ears. "It was one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. It just needed to go."
Last fall, the theater was demolished, its steel and concrete innards recycled, its projection and sound equipment given away. Now, a nearly 7,000-square foot tabula rasa of graded rubble exists in its place, surrounded by 20 acres of land, the four remaining buildings, and parking galore. And Brant Glomb, proud heir to Wisconsin's Graaskamp tradition, is having fun deciding what to do next.
"Until you own real estate, you don't know all its potential," Brant says. "We're finding new and different opportunities daily with this investment."
Glomb, now 31, married and living in Chicago, graduated from the UW-Madison real estate master's program in 2004 after completing an undergraduate degree in marketing and finance from DePaul University in Chicago. He was first attracted to real estate through his parents; his father was a builder and electrical contractor in the greater Chicago area, while his mother invested in land and apartment buildings. But it was Neil Freeman, president of Aries Capital and an adjunct professor of real estate finance at DePaul, who spurred him to choose it as a career.
When it came time to choose grad schools, however, he chose Wisconsin. One reason is that he wanted a fresh perspective on the field and had heard of the Wisconsin tradition, he says. The other reason is because of all the Badgers he'd been meeting in Chicago while working on commercial real estate loans.
"They were everywhere, as if no other school was producing real estate students," Brant recalls. "They were working for developers, for lenders, appraisers or brokerage firms, and all had nothing but inspirational comments regarding their time spent in Wisconsin's real estate program.
Those Badgers — the thousand-plus members of the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association — came in handy many more times, as well. While Brant was co-president of the Real Estate Club, alumni attended club meetings to inspire student interest in the many different facets of the real estate business. In the applied real estate securities analysis program (ARESAP), to which Brant belonged, alumni coordinated meetings with executives from major publicly-traded real estate investment trusts. "They also allowed me and my teammates to bounce new investment strategies off of them," Brant says.
Finally, as he was nearing graduation, he met dozens of former grads for a series of informational interviews to narrow down job prospects. Two of them recommended he contact BPG Properties, a private equity real estate fund manager based in Philadelphia with four regional offices including Chicago. (BPG is now finishing investing a $550 million equity fund and will shortly close on its eighth fund, to total about $800 million of discretionary equity. For more information about BPG's portfolio, please visit www.bpgltd.com.)
"I had met our president and our chief operating officer in Madison when they visited ARESAP," he says. "I had no idea BPG had opened a Chicago office, but this was my foot in the door."
Ultimately, he wound up at BPG as an associate in acquisitions and asset management and was promoted to vice president within two years. The firm is unusual because of its hands-on approach to managing its properties, Brant says. "Others will raise money similarly but then find a joint venture partner" to run operations, he says. "It makes us very unique, and gives us a lot more control. Ultimately, it allows us to pass along more return to our limited partners."
He remains grateful to his fellow Wisconsin alumni. "The alumni association is one of the strongest selling points [of the Wisconsin program]," Brant says. "That [WREAA] directory was very worn out at the end of my two years in Wisconsin."
Meanwhile, from his Michigan Avenue office, Brant is still deciding on ways to inject some élan into his latest development project. The Metropoint cinema is gone, but what should take its place? A PDQ? Retail? Offices? A new hotel?
"I love the creativity and entrepreneurial nature of this business," he says. Figuring out those answers is "true joy," he adds.
Professor Graaskamp would be proud.
This article was written by Kathy Esposito.
For more information about BPG Properties, visit www.bpgltd.com.
To read a news story about Metropoint, see http://www.globest.com/news/850_850/minneapolis/158353-1.html.