The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation’s (HEEF) Annual Real Estate Challenge selected student teams from seven universities to participate in the competition that focuses on a high-profile development/redevelopment project in the Chicago Metropolitan area. HEEF selected a 7.9-acre site on Moody Bible Institute’s campus as the hypothetical site for the 2020 Challenge. The requirements of the students’ development plan included comprehensive analysis and conclusion of how to maximize the potential of the property from both a quantitative (financial) and qualitative (feasibility) standpoint.

DePaul's winning team of undergraduate students called themselves Driehaus Development Group (DDG). The team members included Mark Solak, Alex Hernandez and Vincent Casambre. The DePaul team’s academic adviser was Steve Bell, Associate Director, Student Programs at The Real Estate Center.

DDG proposed the development of River Coast West, a dynamic and diverse mixed-use community that ultimately would provide 985 traditional multifamily units, 200 senior housing units, 1,000 student housing beds and accommodations for 520 co-living spaces. The phased development plan also called for more than 110,000 square feet of retail, medical office and amenity space; parking for more than 580 vehicles; along with parks and transitional green spaces.

The process of developing the DDG plan included meetings with assigned Challenge mentors to gather as much insight as possible. Additionally, the DDG team completed extensive market research and conducted exhaustive interviews with a wide range of developers to understand the landscape and to solicit the perspectives of experienced professionals. Ultimately, DDG established its breakdown of uses for the development.

Speaking for the team, Mark Solak suggested that one of the greatest takeaways from participating in the challenge was a much better understanding of the development process and all of the factors, and professionals, that come into play, from start to finish. “It was awesome to gain a true overview of the development process and to see all of the pieces come together in the planning of such a development,” added Solak. “It was especially meaningful because our team was made up of financial people, one component of the overall team.” 

The student teams presented their projects to the judges on April 4th. Typically, presentations are delivered in person, but because of COVID-19 and the sheltering in place order, the competition was held via Zoom. You can view the live presentation here.

In winning the 2020 Challenge, DDG earned The Real Estate Center at DePaul money for a scholarship, which can be split among no more than two recipients, for the 2021 academic year. Additionally, the students are encouraged to leverage HEEF’s Education Program, which includes a mentorship program, job opportunities, and ample networking events. For his role as an adviser to the team, Steve Bell received an award to distinguish his contribution.

Congratulations to the DePaul team for a job well done!