A team of four graduate students from the University of Maryland’s Colvin Institute for Real Estate Development has won first place in the NAIOP DC l MD 2017 Capital Challenge, an intercollegiate real estate competition for the Washington, D.C. area. UMD’s development strategy for a 240-acre site in Clarksburg, Md. prevailed over proposals from Georgetown University, American University, George Mason University and Johns Hopkins University, earning them a $10,000 cash scholarship prize.
“We are so proud that our students were able to bring a creative and viable development plan for this significant site in Montgomery County,” said Margaret McFarland, Director of the Colvin Institute for Real Estate Development. “Our program is focused on teaching the ideas and techniques of transformational real estate that not only provide returns to investors, but to the community as well.”
Team UMD is: Danny Green, Tom Parker, Oluwatobi (Tobi) Thomas and Oluwatomi (Tomi) Thomas. Ron McDonald served as faculty advisor. This is the first time the University of Maryland has won the Capital Challenge.
The Capital Challenge is a case study competition where teams from area collegiate real estate programs go head-to-head to develop and present proposals for a real property in the Washington, D.C. / Maryland area. Teams must formulate a proposed investment strategy and develop a comprehensive analysis with recommendations that will maximize the potential of the property, showing that it is both feasible and financially advantageous. Now in its eighth year, the Capital Challenge is hosted annually by NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, which is the leading organization for developers, owners and related professionals in office, industrial, retail and mixed-use real estate. The 2017 challenge sponsor was the Bethesda-based real estate development firm, Lantian Development.
This year’s challenge site was a vacant, 240-acre site flanking I-270 in Clarksburg, Md. Using income statistics, a 20-year forecast of Montgomery County households and an in-depth market analysis, the UMD team developed Clarksburg Hills, a dynamic, mixed-use concept that combines senior and multi-family housing, retail and office/incubator space. The site had its challenges; it was the former home of Comsat, with several older buildings, and would demand a new interchange to connect residents, workers and shoppers. Using an eclectic array of land uses—from a mix of for-sale and for-rent properties to town-center amenities, like an on-site brew pub and restaurants—the team aimed to capture the current market demand in the rapidly-growing Montgomery County. A grid street format and abundant sidewalks make the site highly walkable. Just as important as the amenities are the financials: the project’s three-phase strategic plan maximizes returns in Phase I, allowing it to stand alone both financially and as a community.
“I think our proposal was distinct and realistic as it addressed the challenges, owners’ objectives and concerns,” said Tomi Thomas. “Our achievement was not without the advice from previous teams and close work with consultants.”
“The NAIOP Competition was a great platform to gain practical experience in understanding a developer's role in managing a team of real estate industry professionals in a real-world project,” said Tobi Thomas. “I also realized that successful real estate projects are those backed with sound logic and thought derived from proper market research coupled with aesthetically-pleasing designs that emphasize placemaking.”
In addition to the team’s faculty advisor, developer Ron McDonald, the students benefited from a contingent of NAIOP professional advisors, who helped the students develop their proposal. Professional advisors were John Crump, AIA, Smith Group JJR; Merrill St. Leger, AICP, Smith Group JJR; Niel Beggy, Avison Young; Brian Herrington, Whiting-Turner; Stephen Powell, Penzance; Randall Rentfro, Dewberry; Gary Houston, US Bank; and Ani Kostova, US Bank.
“This program had a platform that best simulates what the development professional goes through, and provided excellent practical experience for the students.” said McDonald.
In addition to the $10,000 prize, which will be used for student scholarships within the program, the program will house the famed NIAOP trophy until next year’s competition.
“The Capital Challenge is a practical experience that showed us what a typical development professional would do in real life, such as pitching and defending ideas to a group of stakeholders,” said Thomas Parker. “Although it was an intense seven weeks of hard work, I really enjoyed the opportunity to apply what I've learned throughout the MRED program.”