A group of University of Indianapolis students earned a regional award for its innovative redevelopment plan for the circle Centre Mall.
The group represents the first cohort of the University’s new Master’s in Professional Studies in Real Estate Development Program. Their presentation, which outlined a plan for the future use of the downtown mall, won first place in the 6th Annual NAIOP/ULI University Challenge Award.
The students competed against teams from Butler, IUPUI, ISU and Ball State. UIndy’s redevelopment concept won out over IUPUI in a head-to-head final round to take home $5,000 in scholarship money from the OPUS Foundation, one of the competition’s sponsors, along with Holladay Properties.
The group noted the challenges of traditional “bricks and mortar” retail competing against the rise of online shopping. They proposed a revitalization plan for the mall, which serves as an anchor for downtown Indianapolis, including targeting the space to a high-end tech company, an urban Target store as well as other updates.
NAIOP is a national real estate trade group comprised of local chapters that decide on the topic for the competition every year. A panel of industry experts, including the Circle Centre Mall manager, acted as judges.
The students are enrolled in the Real Estate Capital Markets course with instructor Ken Martin, who was instrumental in bringing the competition to Indianapolis six years ago.
Eric Harvey, who was recently named as the University’s Real Estate Development Program director, said UIndy’s victory in the NAIOP competition underscores the unique approach of the applied degree. In addition to classes being taught by working professionals who are in the industry, students also have access to a professional advisory board that steers the curriculum and program.
“That allows for the student to have professional mentors through their capstone class and to be able to connect with these executive level industry professionals to build their career,” Harvey said.
Harvey said the program equips students with the right blend of skills required to achieve a unique entrepreneurial vision.
“UIndy’s program recognizes that real estate development is essentially entrepreneurial. You have to have a vision to be able to carry that out and you have to be able to see things that other people don’t. We teach our students the skills to sell people on their vision,” he said.
Student Anne McKinley said her participation in the MPS program helped her land her current position as a developer at The Commonwealth Companies. She appreciated the opportunity to develop practical team skills required for the University Challenge project.
“The hardest part was coming up with a concept that was realistic and financially feasible. We won the challenge because we were able to come up with the best use and not take on the entire mall at once,” McKinley said.
Scott Nally, another MPS student in the group, currently works with TWG Management and Keller Williams and hopes to leverage his degree to work in commercial real estate or property development.
“We all researched a different aspect of the project and collaborated on how we wanted each part to flow within the final project. We had to research demographics, market conditions, office pricing, retail pricing, and then what Target was doing and how it would work in the space,” Nally explained.
Student Justin Williams said he came to appreciate the importance of knowing the market and the price per square foot. “I developed a understanding that market analysis and financial analysis are both vital components to any real estate development process,” he said.
All of the students said time was their biggest hurdle. “We are all working professionals and this was a very challenging but very realistic case study,” McKinley added.
Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@UIndy.edu with your campus news.