A team of second-year MBA students –Brannen Blazer, Adam Coleman, Mason Ellerbe and Justin Trowbridge – competed against students from some of the best MBA programs in the – U.S. at the 2015 UNC Real Estate Development Challenge.
The four of us were part of the team that took home fourth place at the 2014 UT McCombs Real Estate Challenge – a result that made us proud but left us hungry for more. Going into UNC’s Challenge this year, we knew that Tar Heel teams had not successfully defended our “home court” since 2012, so we had added pressure from our fellow students and faculty to make the school proud.
Real estate development competitions typically involve cases in locations with minimal market information available, and this year’s case – an opportunity to redevelop the waterfront of Hamilton, the capital city of Bermuda – was no different. We were sent the case eight days before presentations. After a couple of sleepless nights (and more than one Jimmy John’s delivery to the McColl building), we turned in our presentation slides on Monday morning with about 45 minutes to spare, then began the next phase of refining our delivery.
When developing our plan, we wanted to be sure that we weren’t simply maximizing density – it was important to keep multiple stakeholders’ interests in mind, in addition to preserving the character and feel of this historic town. For the 14-acre waterfront site, we proposed developing 460,000 square feet of mixed-use Class A real estate, as well as 3 acres of green space that would include a waterfront amphitheater and a new public park with various pieces of art. The proposed uses included a 110-unit high-end residential building, four-story office building, 56,000 square feet of restaurant and shop space, and the crown jewel of our development—a 410-key luxury hotel and casino.
Teams from across the U.S. descended on Chapel Hill to compete in the Challenge. At a reception on Thursday evening, our team – under the alias “Palmetto Capital Partners” – had the opportunity to meet some of our fellow competitors and judges. The judging panels were comprised of industry experts, including three from Bermuda: Penny MacIntyre (Rego Sotheby’s International Realty), Aideen Ratteray Pryse (Director of the Bermuda Planning Department) and David Swift (MBA ’92). We delivered our proposal Friday morning and won the preliminary round.
In the finals, we competed against teams from Georgetown, Columbia and Wharton (although at the time, we didn’t know which teams were from which schools – they were known only by their aliases). Once all of the presentations had wrapped, the judges deliberated for over an hour. Finally, the results were in. One by one, the other teams were announced in order. After a short disclaimer from Professor Hartzell, our UNC team was announced as the winner!
We immediately headed to Back Bar to celebrate with all of the teams and some of the judges. We were excited to be done with presentations – but more than anything else, we were ecstatic to have represented UNC against some of the top real estate programs in the country and won.
After our win, we were contacted by the Bermuda judges and now have an interesting trip to Bermuda planned in the coming weeks to present to groups interested in our ideas – a double win!
By Brannen Blazer and Mason Ellerbe (MBA ’15)