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JSOM Team Places Third in Real Estate Competition

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(From the left:) Kenneth Messer, Lawren Miller and Nikkhil LaCoul, all senior finance majors, and James Brandt, a junior business administration major, place third in the annual invitational undergraduate case study competition put on by the Texas chapter of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

A team of Naveen Jindal School of Management students placed third in a recent real estate case study competition that called for them to save an ailing retail plaza in “Big City, Texas.” Their proposal included new amenities ranging from early morning exercise options to late-night salsa dancing, food trucks and a public park.

Nikkhil LaCoul, Lawren Miller, Kenneth Messer, all senior finance majors, and James Brandt, a junior business administration major, prepared their transformation plan for presentation at the Texas Conference and Deal Making, held Nov. 4 in Dallas. The annual event and the competition are both hosted by the Texas International Council of Shopping Centers. ICSC awarded the team $2,000 and student ICSC memberships for a year.

Their challenge was to revive a more than 30-year-old “shopping center that had a bunch of low-end places and was basically falling part,” Miller said.

Behind the scenes, the partnership that ran the complex also was disintegrating, and an $18 million construction loan was coming due. The JSOM’s team approach included having the three limited partners buy out the general partner in order to stabilize the management relationship. The group also proposed debt refinancing.

Part of the team’s revitalization strategy called for tearing down one section of the center occupied by decrepit storefront offices and donating a rear excess parcel of land to Big City for a park that would include permanent food truck parking.

Beyond that, Miller said, their ideas called for drawing in more customers earlier and keeping them later by leasing space to a fitness center that would open daily at 5 a.m. and to a Mexican food restaurant that would offer salsa dancing nightly after 10.

“We wanted to make it so that people could come and spend their whole day there,” Miller said.

Dr. Randall Guttery, head of JSOM’s Real Estate Concentrations, selected the team members from students who have taken real estate classes.

“A tremendous amount of effort was expended by these students, including some 3 a.m. nights,” Guttery said. “Professor [George] DeCourcy and I could not be more proud of them. And the real-world exposure to hundreds of real estate professional is invaluable.”

“I learned a ton. I’m really grateful to have been chosen,” said Miller, who enrolled in real estate courses, in part, to learn how to manage property her family owns.

From the competition, she added, she and her teammates have learned to look at shopping centers differently. “Now we all look at the layout first and then we check the tenant mix to see if it works, in our opinion.”

In all, 11 universities were asked to participate in the by-invitation-only competition. An SMU team placed first and earned $6,000 in the ICSC contest. A team from Texas Tech University placed second and took home $4,000. In fourth behind JSOM was a team from Texas Christian University that earned $1,000.

Kris Imherr

Kris Imherr

Kris Imherr, the Jindal School’s communications director, has a BA in English and an MS in journalism. She is proud of them both and happily puts them to use on JSOM’s behalf. She thinks JSOM Perspectives is a great idea and encourages everyone with a point of view and a pencil to contribute.

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