Braving a snow storm on January 14, first and second year Kellogg students traveled downtown for the first half of the 2009 Chicago Real Estate Trek. It is a challenging time to pursue a career in real estate considering that banks have stopped lending, unemployment has reached 7%, commercial vacancy rates are rising, and investment in real estate is at a temporary stand still. Despite glum conditions, the students were greeted by cautiously optimistic real estate professionals who foresaw many future opportunities and encouraged them to stay their path and passion in real estate.
The morning began with a tour of a Mesirow Financial development currently under construction by construction manager Vince Slivka. 353 North Clark is a Class-A office building to be co-anchored by Jenner & Block and Mesirow Financial starting in the third quarter of 2009. Shivering in their business attires and hard hats, the students learned about the steps taken to get the 45 floor office building LEED Silver pre-certified and the benefits of curtain walls. Back at Mesirow’s temporary office, Senior Managing Director Josh Daitch (KSM ’01) gave a presentation about the firm and institutional real estate investments. He discussed the virtues of fund of funds with a carefully selected and diverse portfolio of real estate fund managers. Paul Cohen, Senior Manager in the Development group, lead the students through some current developments, including a prime city block on Walton Street on Chicago’s Gold Coast that Mesirow had recently acquired for development of luxury condominiums. The Kellogg group also received a surprise visit by the gregarious Mesirow Chairman and CEO James Tyree, welcoming the students to the firm.
Real estate investment firm Capri Capital Partners in the John Hancock building was the next stop on the trek. Capri gave a ninety minute interactive presentation introduced by the company’s President and COO Gwendolyn Butler (KSM ’84). The students enjoyed hearing from a wide array of Capri professionals about the firm’s focus on urban commercial and residential properties and a new $2 Billion Real Estate Development deal in Saudi Arabia. Careina Williams, Principal of Investments, spoke to the students about the importance of finding reputable sponsorship with depth of experience and capital for partnerships. The entire team stressed that the real estate industry requires more than just proving yourself quantitatively with regards to returns. Real Estate is a relationship-driven business where connections and a reputation for trustworthiness and results go a long way.
The last stop was a meeting at M3 Capital Partners hosted by Eddie Meder (KSM ’07) and John Montaquila (KSM ’95). M3 is a Real Estate Private Equity Firm specializing in raising private equity for public and private real estate operating companies and funds. The students learned about M3 transactions across all sectors – including opportunities in industrial, retail , office, storage and senior housing in all regions of the world. The M3 team advised the students to prepare for careers in real estate investing by staying on top of all financial news and reading industry trades as well as attending conferences and real estate events to target the best partnerships and opportunities.
Upbeat conversations and laughter on the bus ride back to Evanston reflected the success of the first half of the Chicago trek and a feeling of optimism for the Kellogg real estate majors.