Three female students in suits pose for a photo with their trophy

Team of four Warrington women competes at MIT Real Estate Case Competition

By Sugandha Sharma, Tori Carmichael, Li Yang and Ilona Day

The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work. – Thomas A. Edison

We almost missed the opportunity Edison refers to in his quote. While trying to understand an article on the MIT Innovation Lab, I thought I was done reading until I got to the link for more information. And then I saw the opportunity – The MIT Real Estate Case Competition.

We have always wondered how the financial districts of the Northeast work. We saw this competition as a chance to go beyond the large landscapes of Florida and see how Boston deals with its real estate market.

Started by the MIT Alumni Association of the Center for Real Estate (AACRE), teams from all over the world come to take part in this event to win the Kent Roberts Trophy. The competition nurtures camaraderie and provides an opportunity for real estate students to showcase their knowledge on a major platform. The tasks oriented with the case are always about analyzing and programming a complex development project.

The team's site concept includes drawings of the area and text describing the proposal

The team’s proposal at the competition.

Our team was a perfect combination – an Architect Planner, MBA student, Engineer, and a MSRE student, all specializing in Real Estate. We are proud to say we were an all-women team studying together at the Warrington College of Business at University of Florida.

We got together with a common goal – to go out and learn. The challenge was to fit the timeline in the running spring session of the Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate program. Being a 10-month program, it is already very intense, and we were sure the case would take every minute of our time. But nevertheless, we were determined to do it no matter what it took.

Finally, the date came, and the case was in our lap – a redevelopment project for nine acres of Boston City Hall and City Hall Plaza, a major landmark building and its surrounding area in the heart of downtown Boston. We got onto it with full enthusiasm. We strategized, planned, planned, and planned even more, leaving just enough time for execution. Days went into nights and then day again, it seemed like time was eluding us.

Thankfully for us, the Nathan S. Collier Master of Science in Real Estate program at UF taught us all the skills necessary to take on such projects. We performed market analysis, project concepts, development outlines, and the financial analysis to back it up. We were given all the freedom to develop a product that will benefit the society and foster a feeling of community, and in turn, also provide financial profits to the city. It was up to us to envision a sustainable project in each and every aspect. We proposed a mixed-use development with three towers of 51 floors with a total built up area of 3.8 million square feet, including market rent apartments, office space, retail, and affordable housing. Affordable housing was cross subsidized with condominiums. A large urban plaza within the site was proposed to foster social integration. Our analysis valued the purchase price for the land at $325 million.

We completed our project at the last hour with a presentation and a development model. Over the next few days, we shared some anxious moments waiting for the email. Just when we almost forgot about the case because our curriculum took over, we received an email inviting us to present our case at Harvard Business School. We were ecstatic. Now we shared the news with our professors about our participation and presentation at Harvard. The Kelley A. Bergstrom Real Estate Center sponsored the whole event for us. It was such a great gesture for us and we felt even more determined to do well.

Boston welcomed us with a bright sun and cold winds. We were ready to take on the other real estate programs of the world. The idea of presenting at Harvard Business School with the top teams from across the globe was a matter of respect and pride for us. There were 24 competing teams coming from all over the world.

We put our best foot forward and then waited for results. We did not make it to the final rounds. We were heartbroken but waited for the final round of presentations, and we heard many people from the industry speak and share their thoughts on development. Finally, one of the top developers of Boston spoke about developments and reiterated some of the considerations we had taken up in our case solutions. We realized that we were right in our development approach and thought process and that was enough for us to feel confident about our knowledge.

We came back learning so much from the whole event. Being the only team with four women at the competition, our confidence is now unmatched. We know our program is well equipped with the right skillsets and knowledge that is needed to excel in this field no matter where we work. We all feel it was a wonderful experience, and as Thomas Paine once said, “The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”