Berkeley Retains Grasp on Real Estate Shovel

By considering every stakeholder from scientists to circus performers (and impressing comedian Dave Chappelle along the way), UC Berkeley students held onto the coveted Golden Shovel trophy as they won the Cal-Stanford NAIOP Real Estate Challenge for the second year in a row.

For 20 years, teams from Stanford and UC Berkeley have been competing in three events during the semester and then presenting an extensive real estate development proposal to a jury of seven industry professionals. The competition, sponsored by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, was held this year at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco on May 5.

Berkeley’s winning team included evening and weekend MBA student Eric Ramm, MBA 09; full-time MBA students Zach Chan, Will Hu, and Bao Vuong, all MBA 10; and graduating environmental design student Behn Farahpour. The Cal team won the audience choice award as well as the judges’ award, bringing the lifetime score for the competition to Cal-11, Stanford-9.

The competition challenged teams to create a comprehensive redevelopment proposal for Piers 19 to 23 on San Francisco's northeast waterfront. Proposals include entitlement strategy, leasing strategy, financing, highest and best use of the site, and stakeholder interests. “Essentially, we do in seven weeks what a developer would normally do over two to three years with a full staff,” observes Ramm.

The team’s winning proposal was an office/retail/restaurant project called Telegraph Piers. “We played off the fact that the Exploratorium will be moving to Piers 15-17, bringing new visibility to this stretch of the waterfront,” says Ramm. “We knew we needed something to attract the families, field trips, tourists, and people interested in science who would be coming to the area.”

In response, the group proposed an exhibit hall that could showcase tangible outcomes of the science showcased at the Exploratorium, such as the electric sports cars made by Tesla Motors.

Additionally, the group uncovered that Teatro Zinzanni, a mix of European cabaret and cirque, would soon be searching for a new home — and invited the arts group into the project as an additional attraction. The team also envisioned waterfront offices for green technology companies.

As proof that the team made a compelling presentation, comedian Dave Chappelle, in town for a performance, happened to be in the Four Seasons lounge when the team was rehearsing and stayed to hear the entire dry run. “He asked a lot of intelligent questions,” Ramm recalled. Tongue firmly in cheek, Ramm joked, “We may have had an edge when we told the judges our proposal had been vetted by Dave Chappelle.”