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Aug 22, 2014
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Jun 15 2009


Six first year students from the Kellogg School of Management were declared the winners in the eighth annual Kellogg-Chicago Booth Real Estate Challenge.

The Real Estate Challenge is a quarter long, for credit course in which the teams take on the role of a developer. Each of the six member teams created a redevelopment proposal of Presidential Towers, a historic mixed use project in the Chicago west loop. The course concludes with a final presentation and question and answer session with a panel of five industry judges.

Members of the winning 2009 Kellogg Team
Members of the winning 2009 Kellogg Team
From left to right: Natalia Todorov, Jiwook Seo, Jessica Zaski, Lou Merlini, Bradley Dennison, and Allison Koo
“This exercise was an excellent experience for us, with creative ideas and research provided by a bunch of well-educated urban 20-somethings, our ideal target demographic. Their combined analyses provide unique insights on how the target demographic views Presidential Towers and the potential it represents,” said Waterton Principal and property co-owner Pete Vilim.

The Kellogg team’s redevelopment strategy featured retail redevelopment, adding a theater and medical offices, unit upgrades, and a complete rebranding of the asset into a “Live. Work. Play.” environment. The strategy was supported by an in-depth tenant survey and comparative analysis of the west loop landscape.

William Bennett, Faculty Advisor of the Kellogg Team said, “Intellectual depth and experiential learning are key pillars of the Kellogg education and the Real Estate Challenge is a prime example of how rigorous analysis can be applied to solve timely and relevant problems”

When asked about the Kellogg Team’s performance, Bennett said, “The team was able to reveal value creation opportunities that had not been previously discovered, an impressive feat considering the strong current and former ownership groups. The team’s approach to the redevelopment was appropriate given the capital structure involved, market context, and asset complexity. The congruence of their proposal is the reason I believe Kellogg came out on top.”

First year Kellogg student and team member Allison Koo said, “The Challenge provided a truly unique and challenging experience. By bringing me out of the conventional academic setting, it pushed me to think outside the box and come up with realistic and feasible solutions to real life problems.”

Natalia Todorov, who led the financial analysis for the Kellogg team said, “Proposing feasible solutions to the current owners and a panel of highly qualified judges makes the Challenge a truly unique and rewarding experience.” Fellow teammate Louis Merlini enjoyed the Challenge and shared, “Overall, this was an amazing learning experience and great chance to get exposure to industry professionals.”

About the Author

This article was written by Bill Bennett.