Friday, May 11, 2012 Real Estate News
Students Take First in Both NAIOP and USC Case Competitions

Several times a year, the best of the best gather together to apply their skills to real-world challenges in today's real estate. This year, as in past, the Wisconsin real estate teams have risen to the top in these challenges, taking first place in both the 2012 NAIOP University Challenge in Minneapolis and the 2012 USC International Real Estate Competition in Los Angeles.

For the NAIOP competition, the Wisconsin team was tasked with creating a development plan for three land parcels totaling 1.91 acres. The undergrad team included Cameron Carey, Amanda Frankwick, Ryan Howard, Kimberly O'Connor, Michael Serposs and Ruicong Xie, toured the site in mid-February, submitted a development plan by late March and presented their plans to 130+ members of the Minnesota NAIOP Chapter on Thursday, April 12.


While the competition was fierce (six schools including UW were in the event), the UW team presented an outstanding development plan entitled "University Station," a dynamic, mixed-used project located on the west bank of Minneapolis in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Based on research and analysis, the team created a development plan which consisted of 220 student housing units, 136 hotel rooms, and 38,000 square feet of strip retail including a grocery store.

The presentations were judged on the overall project feasibility and "highest and best use." Each group was judged on financial analysis; market analysis; development strategy; response to codes, regulations and environmental concerns; support for assumptions and conclusions; adequacy and presentation of the written report; and effectiveness of the oral presentation.

"Although they envision more student housing units and no hotel, many of our assumptions were spot-on with those of developer," says Micheal Serpress. "For example, they plan on building 36,000 SF of ground-level retail space, and we envisioned 38,000 SF. Their total construction budget was $83.7M and ours was $84M. I never would have guessed we would hit so close on various elements of the project."

Each member brought their own individual strengths to the team and collaborated not only with each other but also with the many faculty and advisors who assisted with the project. For Cameron Carey, the competition required an essential element of teamwork.

"The journey from the initial planning to execution and a win is made in only one way - with teamwork," says Carey. "This involves the team itself, our advisor Arif, and other faculty and staff of the real estate department. In order to separate and fully execute our plan, a division of responsibilities was needed, as well as deadlines and managing our ever-crunching time frame."

The competition provided students with the opportunity to practice their skills and knowledge gained through the university in a real world setting. Most importantly, it gave students a taste of real-world real estate development processes and the complexities that arise with any development plan.

"We were able to apply direct knowledge, evaluate a complex and difficult problem, and eventually execute and succeed through our teamwork and ideas for a first place finish," says Carey. "Understanding that I have the ability to work on team, set a goal, and come out on top is a great boost of confidence for finishing school and eventually starting my career."

Just a few short weeks after the NAIOP University Challenge victory, a second team of undergraduates were competing in the USC competition, which hosted eight teams, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The team was tasked with designing a development plan for an 11.55 acre site in West Los Angeles without the aid of faculty members or other outside sources.

The students received the case at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, April 16th and had until 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 19th to submit an executive summary and PowerPoint presentation of their design.


Students Beau Garot, Laura Bodine, Alex Neubauer, Stephen Rothstein, Max Sternberg and Jan Van Eerden, had to rely on each other to bring their particular skill-set to the forefront in order complete their design by the required deadline.

"Our team had a really diverse mix of skill-sets, which took a lot of time to figure out," says Stephen Rothstein. "When it came time for the real case we all went straight to work in our respective roles. I believe this is what separated us from other teams-our ability to work individually, and collectively to maximize productivity."

The team used an elaborate Google Sketch-up to demonstrate the proposed development, which included a mix of office, retail and a hotel flag. Team advisor, Arif Qureshi, noted that an architectural firm would easily charge between $10,000 and $20,000 for such a high-quality report.

The competition gave students the opportunity to explore key concepts in the real estate industry, such as analyzing traffic and noise impacts, understanding what is legally permissible and targeted for a specific neighborhood, understanding micro- and macroeconomic indicators for the area, and understanding spatial linkages and how to develop a site plan that incorporates access to these linkages.

For Jane Van Eerden, the competition has given her not only an avenue to practically apply what she has learned so far at UW, but also memories of a great experience.

"From start to finish, every moment was great," says Van Eerden. "This case increased my understanding of so many real estate concepts, from finances and JV structures to zoning and traffic easements, yet the greatest takeaway is the great memory of this past week."

Congratulations to our dedicated and talented undergraduate students who participated in these case competitions! Special thanks to team Advisor Arif Qureshi for his passion and dedication to the student case competition participants.

View the students' USC Case Competition Plan and Presentation.

View the students' NAIOP University Challenge.