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Members of the winning 2009 Kellogg team (left to right): Natalia Todorov, Jiwook Seo, Jessica Zaski, Lou Merlini, Bradley Dennison, and Allison Koo

Members of the winning 2009 Kellogg team

‘A truly rewarding experience’

Kellogg team claims top prize in Kellogg-Chicago Booth Real Estate Challenge


6/17/2009 - 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 each team takes on the role of a developer. This year, each of the six-member teams created a redevelopment proposal for Presidential Towers, a historic mixed-use project in the Chicago West Loop. The course concluded with a final presentation and question- and-answer session with a panel of five industry judges.

“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,” said Waterton Principal and property co-owner Pete Vilim. “Their combined analyses provide unique insights on how the target demographic views Presidential Towers and the potential it represents.”

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.

“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,” said real estate management lecturer William Bennett, the Kellogg team’s faculty adviser.

“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,” Bennett added. “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 ’10 called the Challenge 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,” Koo said.

Natalia Todorov ’10, who led the financial analysis for the Kellogg team, agreed. “Proposing feasible solutions to the current owners and a panel of highly qualified judges makes the Challenge a truly rewarding experience,” Todorov said.

Added fellow teammate Louis Merlini ’10: “Overall, this was an amazing learning experience and great chance to get exposure to industry professionals.”

For its winning efforts, the Kellogg team claimed 70 percent of the $3,000 cash prize, while the team from Chicago-Booth received the remaining 30 percent.