George Mason University

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Mason Students Earn First-Place Prize in Real Estate Competition

May 15, 2013

By Catherine Probst

The Patriot Consulting team, from left

The Patriot Consulting team, from left: Alexandra Bettius, Parks Underdown, Malcolm Van de Riet, Roger Lin, John Zemlan and Ken Jonmaire. Not pictured: Erik Taylor. Photo courtesy of Patriot Consulting

First-time competitors from George Mason University nabbed the $10,000 top prize in the 2013 Capital Challenge Intercollegiate Real Estate Case Competition, beating out Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. Their innovative real estate development plan included a hotel, high-rise apartments and retail.

A team of graduate students in the School of Management’s Real Estate Development Program at George Mason formed Patriot Consulting to compete in the challenge. Team members are Alex Bettius, Ken Jonmaire, Roger Lin, Erik Taylor, Malcolm H. Van de Riet II, Parks Underdown and John Zemlan. Bettius, Jonmaire and Taylor are graduating this spring with an MS in Real Estate Development.

“The Capital Challenge provides unique opportunities for students to work on a real-world development project with some of the finest experts in the field,” says Bob Wulff, director of the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship and Master of Science in Real Estate Development program. “The fact that Mason’s student team took first place in their first year competing is a true testament to the success of the real estate development program, as well as to the talent of the university’s students.”

Sponsored by the Maryland/D.C. Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), the six-week-long competition is open to graduate students from university real estate development programs in the region.

The students compete to create a real estate development plan for a site in the Washington, D.C., area. Each team is assigned the same real estate case study and given essential details about the property. They also work with a team of experts in the local business community who serve as advisors on various aspects of the project such as contracting, engineering and finance.

This year, the teams were tasked by real estate firm WC Smith to create a development and investment strategy for two of their Capitol Riverfront parcels, Square 737 and 250 M Street, located in Southeast Washington, D.C. Both undeveloped sites, measuring 92,795 and 27,960 square feet, respectively, boast easy access to businesses, recreational facilities and transit options.

Each of the seven graduate students in Patriot Consulting brought their own area of expertise — government affairs, finance development or architecture — that would benefit the team.

To begin, the Mason team conducted an assessment tour of the property sites in early March. After weighing all of the strengths and challenges of the property and considering ways to best maximize the value of the property to the owner, as well as complement the adjacent communities, the team set to work creating a comprehensive market study.

“This competition challenged all of us to come together as a team and creatively utilize our

collective knowledge as we prepared our development and financial plan,” says Taylor. “Working alongside my teammates, as well as seasoned industry professionals, made the process even more exciting as we watched our ideas take shape.”

Working closely with their advisors, the team conducted research on the area economy and local market conditions. In their analysis, they considered factors such as demographics, land value and entitlements, zoning laws and traffic conditions, to name a few.

Based on these factors, as well as a plethora of other considerations, the team mapped out a series of recommendations on how to develop the property. Along with their recommendations, and to ensure the highest return on investment, the team took into account the costs and fees associated with construction, site work, financing and transfer of development rights.

Patriot Consulting offered several recommendations to WC Smith to improve the property site. First, they said, a select-service hotel should be built on the property to take advantage of the business travelers who frequent the area. In addition, the team proposed a high-rise multi-family building, constructed in two phases. Finally, the team recommended that each of the proposed structures include a limited amount of retail space to serve the community.

The team’s final development proposal totaled nearly 50 pages, complete with analysis, design concepts and development and construction budgets.

“It was an incredibly rewarding feeling and provided a sense of validation for all of our hard work in putting together this development proposal,” says Jonmaire. “This competition provided invaluable experience for all of us, and I think we learned a great deal from each other, as well as from our advisors, about what it takes to bring a complex development project to fruition.”