Event Recap: University Real Estate Challenge

April 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

By Nancy Burke, Gray Plant Mooty

Impressive presentations, door prizes and a social hour describe the 2014 University Challenge event held on April 10 at the Westin Edina Galleria. The University Challenge Committee put on a well-attended event with more than 200 people. National NAIOP Chair Jean Kane also was part of the event, speaking to what it’s like to be the leader of NAIOP and the priorities set under her leadership.

This year’s University Challenge – a real estate competition between student teams from various colleges – focused on redevelopment of two parcels occupied by Days Inn and the Tea House and owned by a joint venture between the University of Minnesota and United Properties. The 2.4 acres property is located near the TCF Bank Stadium and the impending Stadium Village light rail station.  The six teams were given a set of assumptions on which to base their proposals. They were charged with pitching a development proposal to potential investors for the most profitable yet feasible project.

Before the event, a panel of judges representing various areas of real estate expertise reviewed the proposals and listened to presentations from the six participating schools. The judges then narrowed the competition to three finalist teams. These teams presented their pitches to the larger event audience and answered questions from the judges.


Marquette University’s Aurum

  • The winning design was Marquette University’s Aurum project with the tag line, ‘dream big with a heavy dose of reality’ and an estimated 25.03% post-debt rate of return on investment.  The redevelopment included a research park building expected to attract major Minnesota-based companies to the University campus and a dual brand hotel of 240 units, 90 of which were extended stay.  A new Chinese restaurant accommodating the Tea House lessee, an Au Bon Pain restaurant, a wine bar with gathering space, and a parking ramp completed this development. The sizable hotel component took advantage of the high occupancy rate enjoyed by the present Days Inn, and the substantial parking component satisfied the critical need for more parking in this congested area.
  • The most unique feature of this project was the automation of the parking ramp.  The automated ramp was promoted as having lower emissions and increased safety (no thefts, no door dings), with less than half the footprint of conventional parking and 40% less expensive.  However, the technology limits parking or retrieval of vehicles to 200 per hour, so the judges predicted up to a three hour wait to retrieve their car following a football game at TCF Stadium.

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s University Station

  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison earned second place with a two-phase redevelopment dubbed University Station, ‘a place where convenience meets productivity.’ The ambitious project took advantage of some adjacent vacant land, resulting in a larger footprint. Phase 1 included a 198 room Hampton Inn, 85,000 sq. ft. of incubator space, a Tea House, Panera, and Pancheros restaurants, a microbrewery, a daycare facility with an open play area, and medical convenience businesses like dentists and vision centers.  During Phase 2, the project added a 150-unit Homewood Suites, a 10-story office building, an exercise facility, four stories of graduate student housing, a Trader Joe’s grocery store and additional ground level retail tenants like Smoothie King and Dunkin Donuts. The project included a green roof and one level of underground parking.
  • While it fulfilled clear needs for a neighborhood grocery store and university graduate student housing, the judges seemed concerned with the limited amount of parking and ease of ingress and egress for vehicles throughout the project, especially with the daycare facility.

University of Minnesota’s The Granary

  • The eight-member team from the University of Minnesota delivered a polished presentation of The Granary, which formed a U-shape anchored by a 15-story office tower. Also included was a restaurant facing the TCF Stadium, a Whole Foods grocery store, a Radisson Red hotel, 152 housing units for graduate students, and 392 parking spaces.  For energy savings, the team’s project included occupancy sensors throughout the development, rain gardens, impervious pavement and 500 solar panels. The team estimated the overall energy cost savings for The Granary at $1.50 to $2.00 per square foot.
  • While the project was impressive and well presented by the student panel, the judges expressed concern that the number of parking spaces may not be sufficient.

Cocktails, food and social time followed the announcement of the winners. Twenty-seven sponsors helped support this event, which had double the number of attendees over last year.  Congratulations to the 2014 University Challenge Committee and NAIOP Minnesota for a job well done!

Entry filed under: Programs | Events. Tags: , .

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For more information about NAIOP Minnesota, visit www.NAIOPMN.org.

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