A team of students from the Master of Real Estate and Infrastructure (MREI) program at Schulich School of Business took first place in the 2020 Developers’ Den Case Competition on March 6, edging out 11 other teams from top-rated graduate real estate programs from across Canada and the U.S.
Developers’ Den, Canada’s longest running and most prestigious international real estate case competition, celebrated its 10th anniversary during the March 6 event hosted at York University’s Seymour Schulich Building on the Keele Campus. The real-world competition provides future real estate leaders with a unique experiential learning opportunity to hone their skills, test their knowledge and receive feedback from leading industry professionals who act as judges for the presentations and proposals.
The competition this year included teams from Columbia University’s Master of Science of Real Estate Development (MSRED) program; the Baker Program in Real Estate at Cornell University; the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto; and teams from the Schulich School of Business. Twelve teams made their pitches in the semi-final round and three went on to the finals to compete for the top prize.
The winning team, which received a $6,000 cash prize, was made up of Schulich Master of Real Estate and Infrastructure students John Van, Tracy Hui, Matthew Miklas and Adam Hawkswell. Another team comprised of MREI students Anubhav Sharma and Nicholas DiCastri along with Preyaa Soni from Schulich’s MBA specialization in Real Estate and Infrastructure, finished second and won a $3,000 cash prize. A team from Cornell University’s Baker Program in Real Estate, consisting of Jack Li, Joshua Lau, Madhura Kharche and Nathan Xu, placed third and received a $1,500 cash prize.
The real estate case competition was created in 2011 by Andre Kuzmicki, the founding director of Schulich’s Master of Real Estate and Infrastructure Program, and George Carras, the founder of RealNet, a real estate information services company.
“I’m very proud to have been involved in the creation of this unique event,” said Pete Ivanovic (MBA ’11), associate vice-president at Trez Capital and former president of the Schulich Real Estate and Infrastructure Club. “It has evolved and grown over the years into something truly unique and features some of the brightest minds in real estate. The competition would not have been possible without Andre Kuzmicki’s wisdom, dedication and effort, along with George Carras, the Schulich Real Property Alumni Association team, and the Brookfield Centre in Real Estate and Infrastructure at Schulich.”
The March 6 final round presentation and awards reception at Schulich drew a record crowd of alumni, industry partners, students and prospective students, who watched North America’s top real estate students perform and network with their fellow competitors and industry peers.
“(It) was a special day due to the efforts of a dedicated alumni planning committee and Schulich staff focused on the success of the event, the active and enthusiastic participation of nine industry judges, and the sizable number of attendees who came to witness the finals and network with the students afterwards,” said Jim Clayton, the Timothy R. Price Chair at Schulich’s Brookfield Centre in Real Estate and Infrastructure. “It was also a night of engagement between students, alumni and other industry supporters that we believe benefits everyone involved in this ecosystem of partners.”
The competition’s final round was judged by Mitchell Goldhar, founder and executive Chairman of SmartCentres REIT; Dan Marinovic, chief development officer of DREAM Unlimited; Jaime McKenna, managing director and group head of Real Estate for Fengate; Toni Rossi, president of Real Estate for Infrastructure Ontario; and Ted Willcocks, global head of Asset Management, Real Estate for Manulife Investment Management.
“Developer’s Den gave us the unique opportunity to put our case hypotheses to the test in front of a seasoned panel of industry executives,” said Kelly Armstrong and Charline Chau, co-chairs of the Developers’ Den Alumni Organizing Committee. “The ability to think on your feet and to present a solution within strict time constraints was an invaluable experience and has positively impacted both our careers and our understanding of business. We value the connections we’ve made with graduate students from across North America and industry leaders who continue to participate and support this prestigious case competition.”
Armstrong is a senior investment analyst with Manulife Financial and a Schulich MBA graduate from the Class of 2016; and Charline Chau is an investment associate with NYX Capital Corp. and a Schulich MBA graduate from the Class of 2018.
The live case at the centre of this year’s Developer’s Den competition was co-written by Christine Trinh, a Schulich MBA graduate from the Class of 2013 and a development manager at SmartCentres, and involved the potential re-development of an existing SmartCentres shopping centre located in north Toronto. Phase 1 of the competition required teams to assess the feasibility of redeveloping the shopping centre given the arrival of a light rail transit (LRT) system in 2023 with a dedicated stop at the shopping centre. A twist was introduced in Phase 2 of the competition, when finalist teams were presented with the news that an internationally known, community-focused charity wants to establish a location at the mall and construct an 80,000 square-foot multi-storey building that would include a fitness centre, swimming pool, child services, employment and immigration services, and community meeting spaces, with the potential to draw more people to the site. The catch: being a non-profit organization, the new tenant would not be able to pay market rent for the space.
Along with presenting sponsor Altus Group, a leading global provider of software, data and technology-enabled expert services to the global commercial real estate industry, competition sponsors included Cadillac Fairview, Capital Developments Canada, SmartCentres REIT, NYX Capital Corp., Manulife Investment Management, PCL Construction, Bousfields Inc., Fiera Real Estate, Harbour Equity, and Thorek/Scott and Partners.
This year’s case competition was co-hosted by Schulich’s Brookfield Centre in Real Estate & Infrastructure and the Schulich Real Property Alumni Association. Proceeds from Developers’ Den will benefit Schulich’s Real Estate and Infrastructure Student Experience Fund.