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UW Real Estate Club Fall Market Study Trip: San Francisco

by Staff Thursday, November 15, 2012

On October 24, students from the Wisconsin School of Business traveled to San Francisco for the Real Estate Club’s fall market study trip. Thanks to the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association (WREAA) and our dedicated alumni in northern California, the group of 29 graduate and undergraduate real estate students saw some of the region’s most innovative, intriguing, and iconic developments currently under way. We’d like to give a very special thanks to Brandon Buza (MS ’97) for his commitment to the Wisconsin Real Estate Program and his time and effort in organizing an unforgettable learning opportunity for our students.

One Rincon Hill (Phase II)

After an evening of networking with local alumni at the Hotel Vitale, students loaded onto a 7:30 a.m. chartered bus to visit the first site of the tour: the Phase II development of One Rincon Hill. The development—a 52-story, 299 unit residential tower—is the largest residential development currently underway in the area and will complement the pristine 64-story Phase I tower. Sitting on top of Rincon Hill, one of San Francisco’s original “Seven Hills,” the tower adds an iconic landmark to an already remarkable city skyline. Students spoke with Rob Klinkner (BBA ’90, MS ’95), assistant managing director at Principal Real Estate Investors, about the project and toured Phase I penthouse units to see the spectacular city views the Phase II tower would offer.


Heading down the bay, the students then entered Mountain View for their next stop: Googleplex. The group met with members of Google’s Green Development Team, a specialized unit within their Real Estate group dedicated to implementing Google’s high sustainability standards across all of its worldwide locations. From parking garages with electric charging stations and rooftop solar panels to employee-managed garden plots, students were exposed to a vast array of initiatives underpinning Google’s corporate social responsibility...including the omnipotent Google bikes!

Vista Montana

The students left Mountain View for a drive to San Jose and, after a quick lunch at Panera (special thanks to sponsor Bentall Kennedy’s Paul Boneham, MBA ’79), entered the construction site of the Vista Montana, a 444-unit residential project built with pre-manufactured modular housing. The entire complex includes five buildings totaling approximately 450,000 square feet and an underground parking garage with 700 parking spaces. Each pre-manufactured unit was built in Idaho and shipped via truck to the site, including all appliances, toilets, window blinds, and more! The project was very similar to an assembly line, in which each unit was fitted with a patio addition and stacked upon each other on a post-tension podium. The investment was an interesting case study for students, in which speed and efficiency was key to tapping the strong demand tied to the area’s expanding job market.

San Antonio Station

After leaving the Vista Montana, students headed back up to Mountain View, where they would get the opportunity to tour Rockwood Capital’s San Antonio Station, a 500,000 square foot office campus that has been vacant since 2003. Formerly owned by Hewlett Packard, the former 1960s shopping mall that once housed JCPenney will be redeveloped into an “A Class” office campus in an area known for some of the world’s most renowned technology companies (like the aforementioned Google and HP, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Oracle, among other powerhouses). This specific investment takes advantage of the area’s attractiveness to high-growth technology companies and its location across from Mountain View’s San Antonio Caltrain stop

After a long day traveling up and down San Francisco Bay, the students finally headed back to their hotel and then to dinner at Perry’s (generously sponsored by Northwestern Mutual).


On day two of the trip, the students stretched their legs for a brisk walk to The Presidio, a self-sustaining federal park that finances its budget by renting on premises, renovated historic buildings. Established by an act of Congress in 1996, the trust has received federal money since then, but with a mandate that it become self-sufficient by 2013. Originally home to a Spanish garrison overlooking the Bay entrance, the stunning park greets commuters coming across the Golden Gate Bridge and is home to the Walt Disney Museum, the Letterman Digital Arts Center (think George Lucas), among other gorgeous buildings. Another interesting dynamic at play is the Doyle Drive Replacement Project, a $1B project covered in part by federal earmarks which will move part of the street underground to enhance the Presidio’s views. This is the main artery connecting the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco. This was a unique stop as its financial structure makes the Presidio a truly one-of-a-kind real estate project.

Bay Bridge

Next up was the Port of Oakland for a boat tour of the Bay Bridge East Span construction. You may recall seeing significant damage to the Bay Bridge during the infamous 1989 earthquake. When all is said and done (Caltrans has their fingers crossed for a Labor Day 2013 open), it will be the world’s largest self-anchored suspension bridge including one huge tower, a remarkable cabling system that actually lifts the weight off the temporary bridge, and a troll. Each cable—there are 137!—has 127 wires which are compressed, attached to the end of the road deck, and jacked, thus providing the lift. View a real-time construction shot here, and an informational video regarding the bridge’s history and suspension system here. You can build one, too, if you are willing to invest over $7B!

Transbay Tower

Following a relaxing outdoor lunch sponsored by CBRE’s Bill Huberty (MS '87), our last stop required a good amount of imagination, as the project is so new that drawings have not yet been finalized. Transbay Tower, currently being developed by Hines Interests, will serve as the main entrance to what will be San Francisco’s Transit Center, or the city’s train station and bus hub. You can read about the plan approved by the City of San Francisco at Hines’ website and view a great informational video at the Transbay Transit Center website. Located on the swath of land originally inhabited by an exit spur of the Bay Bridge fatally damaged by the 1989 earthquake, the tower will dominate the city’s skyline at over 1,000 feet. Hines will also contribute a five-acre park atop the abutting transit center, making the site a future valuable green space within the city’s central business district. A special thanks to Tim Runde and Charlie Kuntz from Hines for their time speaking about this tremendous project slated to be completed in 2017.

Real Estate Club members had a busy two-and-a-half days in the San Francisco area visiting some very diverse real estate projects. The trip could not have been possible without the dedicated support from our Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association (WREAA), the local Northern California WREAA chapter, and our generous real estate alumni. Thank you for helping provide a one-of-a-kind learning experience for the next generation of real estate leaders!