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UW Real Estate Club's Spring Trip to Austin, TX!

Posted By Paige Riemann, Tuesday, March 17, 2020



On February 26, 2020, UW-Madison’s Real Estate Club had the opportunity to meet with local companies and alumni when they traveled to sunny Austin, Texas for their Spring Semester Trip. The group of undergraduate, MS, and MBA students, was accompanied by Joe Walsh, Faculty Associate of the Graaskamp Center. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country right now, with 110 people moving to Austin everyday (Downtown Austin Alliance). This provided the students with an amazing opportunity to hear about how a city reacts to growth.


After arriving in Austin, the group gathered at Bangers Sausage House for a WREAA sponsored Networking Event to meet and socialize with Austin alumni. The group got to know one another, talk to alumni about relocating to Austin, and discussed the upcoming days. 


The next morning, they visited Realized Holdings where they were met by Chief Investment Officer and alumnus, Drew Reynolds (BBA 2003) and Founder and CEO, David Wieland. Wieland introduced Realized Holdings as “A market leader for managing investment property wealth by virtue of 103.  Realized Holdings is at the crossroads of technology, structured finance, real estate, and tax”. Reynolds  and Wieland discussed the future of real estate. They predict the real estate language will merge with the finance industry. The two also stated there is opportunity with quantifying risk and big data. Realized Holdings is quickly growing and recognizes that culture in the workplace needs to be a priority.

Following the presentation at Realized Holdings, the group visited the Downtown Austin Alliance, which works towards creating a downtown that meets the needs of the citizens and businesses in the Austin Downtown Public Improvement District. The REC was first met by Joel Sher, President at Congress Holdings Group (BBA 1980), a supporter of the Downtown Austin Alliance. Sher moved to Austin in the 80’s and has never looked back. They were also introduced to Dewitt Peart, President and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance. Peart discussed how the Alliance originally started with keeping the downtown clean and safe, and how that has evolved to meet the needs of the ever-growing city. They said currently their top two priorities are transportation and homelessness. He also discussed that all the Downtown Alliances in different cities across the country are not in competition with each other but instead share information and best practices. Michele Van Hyfte, Vice President of Urban Design, also spoke to the group. Van Hyfte talked about her background in architecture and sustainability. She explained that she believes in the effects of the triple bottom line and the importance of the built-natural-and social environments. After hearing from Van Hyfte, Jenell Moffett, Director of Research and Analysis, spoke about the importance of understanding real estate data and knowing how to use it. She also talked about the upcoming U.S. Census and how useful it will be for the Alliance to have the most up to date and accurate data.


After a fun afternoon meeting with the Downtown Austin Alliance, the REC met with Conor Byrne (BBA 2015), an Investments Analyst at Cielo Property Group. Byrne is originally from Austin, was an undergraduate at UW-Madison, and eventually moved back to Austin. He shared with the students that when he was in the Real Estate Club, their trip was also to Austin, and how meeting with them as an alum brought things full circle for him. Cielo Property Group is an Austin-based privately-owned commercial real estate investment and development company, that developed the mixed-use residential and office buildings, Foundry I and Foundry II,  that the REC toured. Foundry I & II are in Austin’s Eastside District and were completed in the summer of 2019. Meeting with Byrne provided an opportunity for students to hear about the development process behind creating the progressive mixed-use buildings.


That night, WREAA hosted a dinner for students and area alums at Bar Peached, located in the Clarksville neighborhood. Alumni and students talked about their trip so far and cheered on the Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team as they beat Michigan.

The following morning, the club toured Lamar Union, a core mixed-use property in Austin developed by Greystar, where former WREAA media intern and Greystar Development Analyst, David Walsh (BBA 2018), and Senior Director, Nic Whittaker, met with the group. Since many students are familiar with Hub Madison, a Greystar property located in Madison, Wisconsin, this was an excellent opportunity for students to get further exposure to Greystar and learn about Lamar Union. They talked to the group about sourcing, zoning, their partnership with Stream, and the challenges they faced and how they overcame them. When discussing the meeting, Walsh said, “We enjoyed meeting with the Wisconsin Real Estate Club and discussing the lifecycle and challenges of a mixed-use development such as Lamar Union, as well as the many career opportunities with Greystar.”


For their final company visit, the group went to a panel made up of various employees from Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) coordinated by Thomas Maguire (BBA 2019), a Real Estate Investment Analyst for TRS. TRS is the largest pension fund in Texas and the 6th largest in the United States. They talked with the students about what it is like working for a pension fund and investing on behalf of the teachers of Texas to improve their retirement security. The panel also discussed the future changes they see for the industry. Part of the discussion focused on the fact that the leadership in the industry is aging, and how this will affect the industry in the future. The students also learned that the quality of information is getting better, and how they can leverage data and technology to improve their investment decisions.


The trip to Austin was a huge success. Real Estate student Kevin Ford (BBA 2021) said, “I was extremely impressed with the trip Mike and David put together. Connecting with alumni and hearing their insight into the industry was very beneficial. Learning about all the different ways our real estate degree can apply to a multitude of roles just reinforces why our program and alumni are so strong! These trips are what makes our club so special. The trips allow undergraduate and graduate students to connect in a setting outside of the classroom.”


To the Austin alumni, thank you for your warm welcome of the Real Estate Club and for introducing the students to the city of Austin. Thanks also to Real Estate Club Presidents, David Clark (MBA 2020) and Michael Crivello (MBA 2020) for organizing the trip. The efforts of all involved, made for an incredible opportunity for students to learn about the Austin market, and to get to know alumni.


We are looking forward to the Fall Semester Trip!

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