Students Tackle Real-World Projects

Six teams of Lehigh students analyzed real-world projects as part of the 2016 Collins Family Real Estate Competition, a hallmark of Lehigh's real estate practicum/integrated real estate program (ire@l).

The teams analyzed proposals to build a six-story retail/office building, student housing tower and seven-story apartment complex on Bethlehem's South Side, near the Lehigh campus, offered by developer Dennis Benner '76 and his sons, Brandon '07 and Garrett '04. The retail/office building at Third and New Streets is now under construction; Lehigh has signed on as a tenant.

The teams also examined a portfolio from Peron Development, which consisted of an office building and two apartment houses to be constructed on Third Street, between Fillmore and Buchanan streets.

"It was definitely challenging at times, especially working with ongoing projects, because information kept changing," said Austin Devine '16, who, along with Steve Camasta '16, Matthew Laub '16, Gregory Palma '16 and Stefan Sansone '16, won the competition as AFGM Realty Inc. (The five also were teammates on Lehigh's football team, where they were starters or key contributors.)

Laub said the projects' potential impact was not lost on the teams. "The South Side is long overdue for new developments that will bring life and rejuvenation along with them," he said. "There is no perfect way to do this, but the developments we analyzed are an amazing start. They just need to be done in the best way possible."

In fall 2015, the teams studied the physical characteristics of the properties as they related to value: property history, architecture, tenant mix, neighborhood environment and other considerations. They worked in commercial real estate software and submitted a market analysis and property description. Then in spring 2016, the teams performed the analysis needed to complete a full estimate of the properties' market value.

The program culminated in the bracket-style competition, in which the teams presented their analyses to a panel of academic and practitioner judges, many of whom are Lehigh alumni.

"Since the founding of the Goodman Center, our goal has been to bridge the gap between real estate education and the real world of real estate," said Stephen F. Thode, director of the ire@l program. The practicum and the competition provide students with hands-on learning, he said.

The ire@l program is part of the Goodman Center for Real Estate Studies, which offers a real estate minor that is open to students in any major as well as a track in finance for finance majors. Students complete the practicum and the Collins competition, which is part of a generous endowment from Webster A. Collins '57 and his son, Harris '91.