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The Real Estate Club in the Mile High City

Posted By Paige Riemann, Monday, November 4, 2019



The Real Estate Club traveled to Denver, Colorado on October 23, for their fall field trip. The trip was an opportunity for students to experience the booming city, meet with Denver alumni, and get to know one another. Students were joined by Gregory Reed, Associate Director of the Graaskamp Center, and Joe Walsh, Faculty Associate of the Graaskamp Center. Sharon McCabe, former Associate Director of the Graaskamp Center, was also able to join the trip. 


After landing in Denver, the Real Estate Club took the RTD Rail System to Union Station, near the hotel. Later, while touring Union Station, students learned about the crucial role the light rail system, Union Station and the speed of transportation played in the development of the city of Denver. After arriving at the hotel on Wednesday night, the Real Estate Club discussed the upcoming trip and met alumni. It was exciting to learn more about the city of Denver from people who lived there, such as recent MBA graduates Brian Cleary, Joel Schneider, and Hans Helland who have relocated to Denver. 


Thursday morning, the Real Estate Club started the day at CBRE with a market overview by Tim Richey (MS 1988), who introduced the Denver market and shared information that gave context to the other tours and presentations planned for the students. Mr. Richey earned his MS under Jim  Graaskamp. He shared with the club that when he once spoke to Graaskamp about where to find a job after graduation, Graaskamp told him to figure out where he wanted to live, think about what is best for his family, and then find a job there. In his market overview, Tim shared that Denver’s industry is far more diverse than it used to be and is in the middle of a rapid growth phase. Mr. Richey took the time to give students an excellent visual overview of Denver, pointing out three micro markets; the lower downtown, midtown, and uptown, highlighting the upward growth of the development friendly River North (RiNo) area. He also pointed out the light rail system and how it connected the city.


Following the stop at CBRE, the group met with leasing agents Alex Durkee and Kelly Martines for a tour of the recently opened, 40-story Hines Tower at 1144 15th Street. The building is the first Class A office tower developed in Denver in more than 30 years. The leasing agents pointed out the level of detail that went into the building, from the facade imported from Italy to the scents infused into each room. The team is also proud that the Hines Tower is  a LEED-Gold-Certified building. Through innovative design, the  structure has a 10% higher energy efficiency rate than competing buildings. The Real Estate Club toured the lobby and visited the common space and gym on floor two. They also got to visit a vacant white box space that is yet to be leased, which was a unique opportunity for students to see an unfinished office space with a stunning view of the city and the mountains. 


1144 Fifteenth Street


After the Hines Tower tour, the Club met Denver alumni for lunch at Tamayo, a restaurant located in the Lodo district. The lunch was hosted by Kevin Kelley (MBA1980), Tom McCahill (MBA 1980) and Mike Komppa (MS 1975). Over Mexican cuisine, students updated alumni on what is happening at UW-Madison. Alumni shared stories of their student days, discussed the different economic cycles they’ve experienced, and shared the importance of perseverance in times of adversity. The alumni also discussed the lifelong friendships they have gained from the program and advised students to take advantage of the unique opportunities the UW-Madison Real Estate program offers. 


Next, the club met with CU Denver Professor, Ken Schroeppel, to talk about the development and urban planning behind Union Station and the surrounding area. Union Station is a pinnacle of downtown Denver and has had a recent makeover since it was built over 100 years ago. It is now regarded as Denver’s “living room” and walking in you can see why. The inside of the station has comfortable seating areas that are busy with people waiting for their train, catching up with a friend, or getting some work done. Union Station was developed to combine various operations and railways. In 2001, RTD purchased the site and there was a massive effort to redevelop the station and the surrounding area to create a main transportation hub. Mr. Schroeppel pointed out the renovation of the property relied on the fact that Denver is a progressive city that supports tax increases. He also talked about the development in the surrounding area, which included adding three new pedestrian bridges. The bridges were created as a powerful pedestrian walkway to connect parts of the city. Just the day before, the Real Estate Club used the bridges to go from their hotel to the Ale House. Mr. Schroeppel shared that many Denver citizens, himself included, use the bridges to walk to work every day. The area between Union Station and the pedestrian bridges has only been  developed within the last 11 years. 


After the tour of Union Station, the students went to The Source Hotel, which is in the River North (RiNo) district. The club met with Justin Croft of Zeppelin Places, the company that developed the property.  Justin gave the students a tour of the Market Hall, which began life as the Colorado Iron Works foundry in 1880.  The hall is now host to many independent food and artisan vendors and breweries. One of the vendors in the Market Hall is Isabel, a juice and cocktail bar named after Isabel Nesmith Even, the former president of the Iron Works. The Source Hotel honored her legacy as the first female industrialist in Denver by naming the bar in the center of the Market Hall after her.  After touring the Market Hall, the students went to the hotel on the property. The hotel is inspired by both Scandinavian and Japanese design and provides for a unique lodging experience the minute you check in with New Belgium beer on tap at the front desk. The hotel also has a rooftop bar and the pool with breathtaking views of the city and mountains. Mr. Croft discussed the importance of the River North neighborhood, which honored the historic legacy of Denver’s former manufacturing district in its redevelopment as a destination in Denver’s culinary, retail, and art scene.



The Source Hotel


To complete the day, the students enjoyed dinner with alumni at Liberati. The restaurant had delicious food and is home to Oenobeers. Oenobeers is a beer/wine hybrid, with beer using wine grapes in fermentation. Liberati is the only brewery in the world that is dedicated to Oenobeers.


Friday morning, the club went to Northwood Investors, where they met with former Real Estate Club President, Brian Cleary (MBA 2019), to talk to him about his new job and to hear about Northwoods recent projects. Northwood Investors was founded by John Z. Kukral, the former President and CEO of Blackstone Real Estate Advisors. The firm invests across a wide range of asset classes including hotel, office, retail, residential and industrial properties across the United States and Europe. Northwood Investors targets long-term value creation with longer holding periods than other real estate opportunity funds.    


Following Northwood Investors, the group met  with Matt Joblon from BMC Investments located in Denver’s upscale neighborhood of Cherry Creek. The office building, called the Financial House, is a  BMC Investments development. Mr. Joblon talked about moving from Los Angeles to Denver and the power of an entrepreneurial spirit. He told students that in order to create a business your idea must meet the “Three S’s”, it must be saleable, sustainable, and scalable. He also discussed the relationship in real estate between risk and reward, and the importance of protecting ourselves in downturns. He talked with the students about BMC’s development of Steele Creek, a high-rise luxury apartment building, where they were able to identify the pent-up demand in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. Mr. Joblon emphasized the importance of looking at past developments and asking for feedback to help improve future developments. He even asked students for feedback on the BMC Investment properties that they were touring that afternoon. After the development of Steele Creek, BMC Investments developed more ultra-luxury apartment buildings in Cherry Creek North called the St. Paul Collection. In this development, BMC utilized features from their success in Steele Creek while incorporating improvements from feedback received. The Real Estate Club got to tour the St. Paul Collection apartments, including their rooftop pool, community area on the second floor, and model unit. 


The St. Paul Collection


The trip concluded with a final lunch at Elway’s located in Cherry Creek. The lunch, hosted by alumni Bill Evans (MS 1984) from Madison Realty Investors, was an excellent way to wrap up another incredible Real Estate Club Trip.


Thank you to trip organizers, WREAA Market Representative Chad Messer (MBA 2015), Real Estate Club Presidents Andy Evans and Jared Schnoll. To the Denver alumni, thank you for your time and commitment in welcoming the Real Estate Club, talking about your time at UW, and introducing the students to the Denver market. The effort of all who were involved made this an amazing trip!


We look forward to the Spring Real Estate Club Trip!


For more photos from the trip, please view our video on Facebook.


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