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DU beats rival CU in annual Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge

DU graduate students accept awards for winning the 9th annual Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge. Members of the winning team were (left to right): Justin Soroka, David Jaudes, Marc Boetcher, Ilan Reissner, Tinashe Midzi, James Hillhouse and Adam Kopp.

For the 6th time in nine years, DU has won the Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge, beating their rivals at the University of Colorado–Boulder (CU).

Seven graduate students in DU’s Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the Daniels College of Business participated in the challenge, as did five graduate students from CU’s Real Estate Center at the Leeds School of Business.

Both teams spent several months working on a real-life case study, researching and creating a redevelopment plan for Nine Mile Station — a 23-acre redevelopment property located at South Parker Road and I-225 in Aurora, Colo.

Every year, Colorado’s chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) selects a property in the Denver metro area that needs to be redeveloped. CU students spend a semester working on their redevelopment plans, while DU students spend an academic quarter on theirs.

The teams presented their final plans to a panel of 13 judges — all Denver-area commercial real estate leaders — at the Real Estate Challenge’s awards banquet on May 3 at the Marriot City Center in downtown Denver. More than 800 commercial real estate professionals attended the competition, where Ed Tauer, mayor of Aurora, Colo., announced DU as the winner.

“This was by far the best educational experience of my life,” says DU team member Ilan Reissner. “The NAIOP challenge allowed my team to use our DU educational experience and background to solve an existing problem in the real world. As I am getting ready to graduate, the NAIOP challenge has given me lots of knowledge that I look forward to taking with me throughout my real estate career.”

DU’s team created a plan that was realistic and aligned with real world expectations, while CU chose a plan that incorporated more design elements but wasn’t as realistic to what the market is willing to finance, says Marie Kline, director of operations for the Burns School.

DU’s plan included space for King Soopers, Key Bank, a brewpub, retail shops and a suburban-style, walk-up apartment complex.

“It works in the market and I think that’s what the developers who were on the judging panel thought,” says Clinical Professor Jeff Engelstad, who teaches DU’s graduate-level real estate development class that prepares students for the competition and helps them develop their plan. “They said, ‘What you guys came up with is something that you could invest in and it’s something that would be a success.’”

Engelstad says many students who are studying to become developers don’t dream about building shopping centers in the middle of nowhere — rather they have idealistic aspirations of building “the Emerald City” or “field of dreams.”

“At first that’s what they gravitated to, but this team came to the reality that they needed to first look at the market and say ‘OK, what will the market respond to?’” Engelstad says. “Because if you go off to build the Emerald City you might get it approved, but you’ll never get it built and you’ll go broke trying.”

DU’s team members won more than just bragging rights. They also took home a trophy, a $2,500 cash award and a $5,000 scholarship to help future Burns School students.


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