Cornell Takes Gold at MIT Real Estate Competition / by urbanexus

The Program in Real Estate is proud to announce that a team of Cornell students won the 2011 MIT Center for Real Estate Competition hosted by the Alumni Association of the MIT Center for Real Estate. The 2011 Cornell team was comprised of students from the Program in Real Estate and the Johnson Graduate School of Management: Brandon Jacobsen (MBA/PRE’13), Randolph Zhao (PRE’12) Michael Majestic (MBA’12), Dylan Fonseca (MBA’12). The event is an annual real estate case competition that provides the real estate graduate student community an opportunity to compete, showcase their knowledge, and learn from each other through the analysis of a complex real world development site. Brandon Jacobsen, MBA/PRE’13, describes, “Participating in the competition was a great opportunity to apply the things we have been learning in class to a real-world project.” PRE students are encouraged to participate in several annual competitions around the nation but this marked the first time that Cornell participated in this particular competition.

This year’s competition featured 16 other teams from 13 represented schools from programs including:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • Boston University
  • Babson
  • Auburn
  • Columbia University
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Texas A&M
  • Rice
  • Texas Christian University
  • University of Toronto

Each team is given a 5-day period to analyze a case that focuses on real estate acquisition and financial underwriting at the asset level. Students travel to Cambridge to present their submission before panels of industry professional and judges of the competition. This year, over 100 industry professionals were in attendance along with 17 judges from a variety of real estate-related firms including:

  • Phil Lisciandra, Managing Director, Ackman-Ziff
  • Bill McLaughlin, Executive VP of Development and Construction, Avalon Bay
  • Israel Lopez, Senior VP of Commercial RE Banking, Bank of America
  • Tom Grape, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Benchmark Senior Living
  • Bryan Koop, Senior VP & Regional Manager, Boston Properties
  • Brian Kavoogian, President & Founder, Charles River Realty
  • Fred Wittmann, Senior Managing Director, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P.
  • Riaz Cassum, Senior Managing Director, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P.
  • Thomas O’Brien, Managing Director, HYM Investments
  • David Lynn, Managing Director, Head of Investment Strategy and Research, ING Clarion
  • Mark Weld, Managing Director, Separate Accounts Portfolio Manger, ING Clarion
  • Paul Marcus,  Founder & CEO, Marcus Partners
  • Bruce Kirsch, Founder & Principal, Real Estate Financial Modeling
  • Tim Fraser, Managing Director, Spaudling and Slye Investments/Jones Lang LaSalle
  • Heather Hohenthal, Partner & Regional Manager, TA Associates Realty
  • Mark Baranski, Managing Principal, WaveCrest Capital Partners
  • Stephen St. Thomas, Senior Managing Director, Wells Fargo Real Estate Capital Investments

The site chosen for analysis in this year’s competition is located in the financial district of Boston, MA. The 2-acre site was purchased in 2007 by Boston Global Investors, Vornado, and JP Morgan for $100 million. The original plan included a 39-story, mixed use project that would cost nearly $700 million. However, due to deteriorating economic conditions, the project was suspended and consequently placed back on the market. “The case was based on a messy development and came with very few guidelines which made it very challenging but left a lot of room for creativity,” Jacobsen noted. The case instructed participants to analyze the property and ascertain a bid value for the price. After careful analysis, the Cornell team decided to pursue a development project that integrated a mix of retail hotel and apartments.

The competition required advanced knowledge of a variety of financial and development skills which students obtained through their graduate studies. Skills required to succeed in the competition go beyond financial analysis and percolate into fields of study including: design, sustainability, planning and presentation skills. This wide array of skills is representative of the real estate profession as a multi-disciplinary industry. Thomas Hambury, Director of Executive Programs at the S.C. Johnson School of Management, stated, “The two key elements in any case completion are the analysis and the presentation. And you have to nail both to win. This team’s graphic presentation was comprehensive, clear, on-point, and elegantly presented. They deserve a lot of credit for this performance under pressure.”

This multidisciplinary approach to the real estate industry is a hallmark of the Program in Real Estate. Students are encouraged required to participate in a variety of courses that strengthen a student’s understanding of real estate fundamentals, such as: architecture, construction management, development, finance, investment and deal structuring, law, transactions, property management, urban economics and planning. Through a comprehensive curriculum and diligent efforts, students are prepared to participate in national competitions and produce exceptional results. Randolph Zhao, PRE’12, describes his experience as, “Our team had a wide set of skills, stemming from professional experiences and Cornell curriculum, that allowed us to produce a great project and ultimately win the competition.”

The Program in Real Estate, along with faculty, staff and students, congratulates the 2011 Cornell team in their outstanding performance at the 2011 MIT Case Competition.