Published December 19, 2017
Two UB real estate development students won first place in an intercollegiate competition, placing UB and Buffalo’s story of rebirth on the national stage.
The Colvin Case Study Challenge, sponsored by the University of Maryland’s Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development, invited student teams to document an innovative development project within their own community. The contest received entries from 28 real estate development programs across the United States.
It was the second top finish in the competition in as many years for UB’s relatively young master of science in real estate development program, which launched in 2015. UB sent a team to the finals in last year’s Colvin Case Study Challenge, earning second place.
Making the trip to College Park this year were Christopher Tringali and Kevin Turner, who did an analysis of The Delaware North Building, a 12-story, glass-walled, mixed-use complex in the heart of downtown Buffalo.
The project, which won the 2017 statewide award for Excellence in Mixed-Use Development from the Urban Land Institute, serves as the world headquarters for Delaware North, a global hospitality and food-service enterprise. The $110 million project, owned by Uniland Development Company, also houses other Class A office space, a four-star Westin Hotel and street-front retail and fine dining.
Tringali and Turner placed atop a field that included teams from New York University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota). The students will share the competition’s $10,000 prize.
The Colvin Case Study Challenge criteria covered all aspects of the development process, from market analysis and project valuation, to urban design, legal processes and operational issues.
Tringali and Turner brought a powerful combination of skills to the competition. Turner is pursuing master’s degrees in both architecture and real estate development. Tringali came to the real estate development program with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a concentration in finance from UB, and has several Buffalo development ventures under his belt.
UB’s real estate development program also holds an advantage in this regard. Housed in the School of Architecture and Planning, the program integrates coursework in architecture, urban design, economic development and law, as well as finance and investment. The majority of the nation’s real estate development programs are affiliated with business schools.
For Turner, the competition experience put all the pieces of the program together. “The competition helped me engage the local development community, and work with professionals in the industry to get an understanding of how design, development and planning are actually implemented in a built project,” he says.
Dean Robert Shibley says the competition is a significant win for UB and Buffalo, a testament to a rising program that’s advanced quickly in a competitive field of real estate development programs across the country.
“We launched this program in response to a growing need for real estate professionals trained across the spectrum of our built environment and its relationship not only to the economy, but to our communities, the urban fabric and our natural environment,” Shibley says. “The program’s continued success on the national stage demonstrates not only UB’s prominence among an elite field of programs, but Buffalo’s reputation as a city on the leading edge of innovation in urban development.”
Buffalo is the program’s primary laboratory, with the city’s real estate professionals comprising the bulk of its faculty. The Colvin Case competition is now integrated into the program’s coursework to allow for in-depth study in the field and intensive relationship-building with the development community.
The team was advised by Mark Foerster, senior fellow in real estate development at UB, and adjunct professor David Stebbins. “With our deep industry relationships in Buffalo and major metro areas like New York City, our program gives students great opportunities for real-world projects, and for developing relationships with top professionals,” Foerster says. “We believe this gives our students a comparative advantage as they start or advance in their careers in commercial real estate.”
Indeed, this year’s competition entry emerged based on strong student networks with developers. Tringali had built a mentoring relationship with Uniland capital markets director Peter Sayadoff, who also serves on the UB real estate development program’s professional advisory committee. That connection evolved into an internship at Uniland for Tringali, making The Delaware North Building an obvious choice for the case study for the competition.
Through a research process that included data mining with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and weekly meetings with Uniland executives, Tringali and Turner looked behind The Delaware North building’s emergence, addressing issues of historic preservation, community engagement, financial structuring, and urban design.
Among their findings was the importance of community outreach in building buy-in for a project that involved the controversial demolition of an existing building. The final design scheme incorporated the original building’s terra cotta features.
Serendipity also came into play. Uniland’s speculative purchase of the site at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street coincided with a significant real estate dilemma for Delaware North. The company wanted more modern space and was considering relocating to Boston. Uniland’s successful response to the company’s request for proposals ultimately retained an international corporate headquarters — and 350 largely high-paying jobs — for the city.
Executives at Uniland were impressed by the rigor and discipline Tringali and Turner brought to the project. “They were well prepared, had insightful questions when we met to discuss the case study and showed a good understanding of commercial real estate,” says Vice President Michael Montante, adding that the knowledge exchange with UB is part of the firm’s investment in the future of real estate.
“With our interns at Uniland, we want to give them real-life experiences — projects that help them learn through active participation. Our goal is to educate future commercial real estate practitioners and prepare them for life after college,” Montante says.
Uniland’s Sayadoff, who met with the pair regularly, agrees. “From start to finish, Chris and Kevin were diligent in their research and reporting. Early in the process they established a schedule for completing various parts of the report. They sought outside resources beyond Uniland throughout the entire process to bolster the data and information for the case study,” Sayadoff says. “Both Chris and Kevin put forth tremendous effort to complete this project, and are deserving of first place. They earned it.”
Tringali graduates this month and has already landed a job as a portfolio manager with Arbor Realty Trust in Buffalo. Turner is heading to New York City for a winter session internship with architecture firm FXFLOWE.