On Saturday, April 4, student groups from seven universities competed in the tenth annual Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation Real Estate Challenge in a reimagined virtual format for top honors and $5,000 in scholarships towards their university’s real estate program. DePaul University’s proposal, River Coast West, by Driehaus Development Group, was awarded first place and receiver of the scholarship.
In response to the COVID-19 situation, the competition was quickly transitioned from its original in-person format to an online virtual series of webinar presentations that allowed for teams to present live to a panel of distinguished judges-with everyone involved participating from their personal residences.
The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation partnered with Moody Bible Institute (MBI) to task aspiring real estate students from top universities with creating a hypothetical redevelopment plan of 7.9 acres, consisting of low-lying structures, parking lots and a soccer field, which make up the non-core portions of the campus.
DePaul’s River Coast West proposal suggested a mixed-use development solution that would create a new dynamic and diverse urban community that engages with various demographics in the area. The team proposed an extraordinary plan that would welcome four multifamily towers, an upscale senior living tower, a student housing tower, a co-living building, a rehabilitation medical office center, 20,000 square feet of administrative office space, a brand new state of the art sports facility and two retail buildings. Additionally, the team’s proposal included a new park, church, recording studio and a non-profit accelerator aimed at expanding MBI outreach.
“We wanted to ensure that our design offered a nod to the surrounding campus’ presence which was a valued aspect of MBI’s challenge site request,” said Mark Solak, team-lead and junior studying finance at DePaul University. “A green-space path, the ‘green corridor’ would run throughout the park keeping consistent with the campus feel. River Coast West’s marketing strategy would include a partnership with contractors who understand sustainable construction.”
Solak’s team included Vincent Casambre, Alex Hernandez and Greg Mclellan. Their faculty advisor was Steve Bell, and their industry mentors were Peter Caruso, executive vice president at JLL; Geoff Smith, director at Barings, and Peter Tortorello, principal at Fairfield Properties.
Ball State University’s Mosaic District, detailing a 73-story mixed income high rise, and Marquette University’s McCormick Development Partners, LLC proposal to provide needed office space in the neighborhood both took home Honorable Mention(s).
Through this valuable exercise, the student teams acted as individual development companies to design and present concepts to pitch their master redevelopment plans to a panel of industry executives, acting as the Limited Partners who would purchase the site for redevelopment. The panel of judges included: Michael Blue, FAICP, principal of Teska Associates; Christopher Dillion, president of Campbell Coyle; Ken Heulitt, chief financial officer of Moody Bible Institute; Erik Hultquist, strategy and planning director of Moody Bible Institute, and Al Klairmont, president of Imperial Realty Company.
“The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation Real Estate Challenge is designed to give students an unparalleled real-world experience,” said Klairmont, Real Estate Challenge judge and Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation board member. “I am honored to be a part of a foundation that is resilient and committed to providing these students with a valuable educational experience, especially during this uncertain time. The students benefited from this virtual pivot and left our panel of judges incredibly inspired and impressed with their proposals.”
“I am so impressed that our staff and committee executed on our 10th Annual Real Estate Challenge despite the current environment that we’re facing,” said Peter Eisenberg, president, Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation. “Thank you to the committee, student teams, judges, faculty advisors and professional mentors for your passion and perseverance.”
The initiative was designed to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to apply what they are learning in their university courses to the real working world of real estate. Through the challenge, students had the opportunity to work alongside qualified mentors and industry leaders as they were tasked with hypothetical projects relating to the forefront of Chicago real estate.