Recap | 2015 University Challenge

May 5, 2015 at 8:45 am

1st Place: Marquette University

1st Place: Marquette University

By Nancy Burke, Gray Plant Mooty

Despite the wet, blustery weather, the University Challenge drew a good crowd to the Westin Edina Galleria on April 9. A competition among teams from different colleges to conceive the most feasible development project for a common property, this year’s University Challenge project site was a 270-stall parking lot located on top of the Bassett Creek tunnel in the North Loop. The 2.27 (98,949 sq. ft.) acre property at 747 3rd Street North in Minneapolis was valued at $75/sq. ft. and currently serves as parking for the Bassett Creek Business Center. The teams were directed to include parking for the business center post-development. No multi-story development was allowed above the tunnel, which would cost $1 million to reroute, and construction more than two levels below grade was cost prohibitive. Finally, a public park could be, but was not required to be located on the property.

An initial round of competition was held in the early afternoon to narrow the competitors to three teams. A panel of six judges, representing diverse expertise in the real estate industry, made the difficult choice of selecting the University of Minnesota, University of Northern Iowa and St. Cloud State University as the three finalists. Competition was fierce among the finalist teams and all gave polished presentations of their development plans.

Marquette University: “Infinity: a development not just for now but forever”

  • Last year’s champion, Marquette University, was back with another profitable and winning design. For its project, this team of four commercial real estate finance program seniors chose a two-tower, mixed-use development with 325 units of multifamily housing, a 144 key boutique Hotel Indigo and 540 parking stalls. Its choice was driven by the high demand for multi-family housing and the only hotel in the North Loop having an extraordinarily high occupancy rate.
  • In this design, luxury apartments sit above the hotel and each tower is located above structured parking to maximize views. Amenities are shared by the two towers to reduce costs. The project devotes 25 percent of its multifamily units to workforce housing to obtain some tax increment financing for an excellent 18.02 percent unleveraged and 9.15 percent leveraged rate of return.

University of Minnesota: “700 on the Park”

  • Second prize went to the University of Minnesota’s creative design with an environmental and urban planning focus. 700 on the Park includes two buildings on the north and south ends of the property located between just under an acre of park. The 11-story tower has a 202-unit apartment complex convertible to condominium, a YMCA Express concept health club, daycare facilities, workout and community rooms, two retail spaces and office for medical use. The second tower is a six-story, 120 room hotel, with a destination restaurant and two large retail areas. The overall development includes 542 underground and 18 above ground parking stalls and a roof deck pool.
  • This multiuse project brings a community focus to the neighborhood, with the park and recreational facilities. Its innovative environmental features include harnessing the waters of Bassett Creek as a sustainable energy source for the building, and the park provides environmentally friendly on-site stormwater treatment. The development expects to receive grants and public subsidies for green energy and public spaces and provides a 10.41 percent leveraged and 6.16 percent unleveraged rate of return.

University of Northern Iowa

  • The eight-member University of Northern Iowa took third place with its two-building development featuring a green space plaza in between. The east tower houses 271 units of Class A apartments in a 15-story building with retail space that includes outdoor seating on the first floor. The west building includes an eight-story office building with first floor retail space. Approximately 325 stalls of below-grade parking serves the entire development.
  • The office tower features open floor space to distinguish it from the central business district and the green space serves a neighborhood need and avoids the cost to move the Bassett Creek tunnel. The apartments are Class A complete with concierge service. The development includes a 5.83 percent development fee that provides for 33.6 percent unleveraged rate of return.

While the judges were deciding, the audience was entertained by a fun participation event and descriptions of upcoming downtown and North Loop developments. Cell phones came out for text voting with the big screen simulcasting the results. Polling revealed a crowd dominated by University of Minnesota alumni who, not surprisingly, wanted their school to win. After polling on a variety of topics, presenters described Target Field Station, 729 Washington Avenue and T3 (Timber-Transit-Technology) developments. Finally, award checks were presented and everyone gathered for an enjoyable hour of food and cocktails.

Congratulations to the winning teams, thanks to the sponsors who made this event possible, and extra thanks to the University Challenge Committee and NAIOP event staff for all their time and effort making this event a great success!

Entry filed under: Programs | Events.

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