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Nov 20 2017


On October 4, 2017, The Kellogg Real Estate Club visited the offices of Blue Vista and Related Midwest and completed a tour of Related’s recently completed Landmark West Loop.

At Blue Vista, students met with Chief Investment Officer Laurie Smith, who oversees the firm’s Middle Market Equity platform. In addition to Laurie, students also heard from two Principals, David Katz and Jason Schwartz. David is a Portfolio Manager for the firm’s Middle Market Equity funds and has many responsibilities for fund performance including strategy, research, and portfolio optimization. Jason is responsible for sourcing, underwriting, and executing transactions across all of Blue Vista’s platforms.

Students learned about the firm’s Middle Market strategy, which targets value add investment opportunities alongside successful operating partners. The Blue Vista team discussed how they assess portfolio optimization and benchmark fund performance. They also spoke about the flexibility of their capital to be allocated to various regions or asset types based on their research-driven approach to underwriting. In addition to broader fund strategy, David discussed how the firm manages relationships with operating partners, conducts research, and manages existing investments. Jason and Laurie then walked students through some case studies of recent deals that the firm has executed. Jason also discussed the operationally intensive student housing strategy, and how Blue Vista professionals leverage the firm’s student housing management platform, Peak Campus Communities, to execute on those investments. Students left the presentation with some advice from the three Blue Vista executives on how they should approach looking for their next role in real estate upon graduation.

At Related, Vice President of Development Michael Ellch toured students through the 30-story, 300-unit apartment building on Van Buren St. in Chicago’s West Loop. Mike described the investment thesis of Landmark, including the proximity of the project to the Illinois Medical District and University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as the up-and-coming neighborhood. The building features high tech finishes including Nest thermostats, Google Chromecast, and keyless entry to units. Other amenities include a spacious fitness center, pool deck, and dog run. Related believes that by providing an alternative to cable, a health-club-equivalent gym on site, and other amenities, it can demand rents above other comparable buildings in the neighborhood. Students were particularly impressed by the level of thought and detail that Related put into marketing materials and model units, identifying their target tenant down to the type of beverage they prefer, the products they use, and the music they enjoy.

Back at the office, Nick Anderson, Vice President of Development and Acquisitions, presented One Bennet Park, the 800-foot tower which is currently under construction in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. The building features both condominiums and apartments. While the building’s exterior of limestone sets it apart from the surrounding glass towers, the units within are significantly larger than market standards. The interior offers robust amenities, yet manages to keep residents who own and rent separate.

Finally, Mike presented Related’s studies on the 78, the 62-acre site in Chicago’s South Loop recently featured as one of Chicago’s proposed sites for Amazon’s HQ2. The name 78 was carefully chosen. Still in the planning process, Related hopes that the site will become its own unique addition to Chicago, the 78th official neighborhood. The generic name eliminates any preconceived notions of what the project should be as the firm weighs input from government and community stakeholders. The future design will reinvigorate the Chicago riverfront and link the new community to Chicago transit.

About the Author

This article was written by Kevin Tazalla '18, Alex Lichtenfeld '18.