USC Price School of Public Policy

Real Estate Competition

USC Tops UCLA to Claim ‘Silver Shovel’ in Annual Real Estate Challenge

From SPPD staff reports

A team of five master’s students from the School of Policy, Planning, and Development and Marshall School of Business took home the distinguished Silver Shovel in the annual USC-UCLA Real Estate Challenge.

The competition – presented by the Southern California Chapter of the NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association – focused on creating a plan for the best use of a 3.9-acre commercial redevelopment project designated for industrial use within the City of Los Angeles’ planned “Clean-Tech Corridor.”

Each team presented their plan before an audience of more than 300 real estate professionals at USC’s Town & Gown. USC’s team consisted of Zach Adams MRED ’10, Iain Gulin MRED ’10, Nicholas Harnsberger MRED/MBA ’10, Ben Jensen MRED/MBA ’10 and Ryan Schierberl MRED ’10.

The challenge site, known as Avenue 26, is located in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, between Artesian and Humboldt streets (Interstate-5 and 110 freeway). According to the NAIOP Web site, the winning presentation for this project will set the framework for an emerging 663-acre area known as the Cornfields Arroyo Seco Specific Plan (CASP).

“The competition centered on a small site within the 633-acre CASP, but it was very significant, as the City of Los Angeles was the client,” said Associate Professor Christian Redfearn, who directs SPPD’s graduate programs in real estate. “The city’s planning department has been working on CASP plan for a number of years and was keen for feedback on CASP’s viability.”

While the UCLA graduate students offered a creative proposal involving dense organic farming for the urban site, USC’s team presented a “clean-tech campus concept” that effectively met all of city’s criteria en route to earning the Silver Shovel. Their goal was ultimately to create and sustain new business and accommodate the need for jobs within the area.

According to their design, a trade school would be established that would specialize in delivering the skills needed for “green-collar jobs” such as solar installation, smart grid maintenance and battery technology. Under this plan, the local population would be trained and subsequently have better access to higher-paying jobs.

“The city would benefit from much-needed job creation and tax revenue, and the city would not have to pay anything for it — it would make money from the sale of the land,” Redfearn explained.

In addition, Jane Blumenfeld, principal city planner for the City of Los Angeles, and several members of her staff, attended the competition and has asked both teams to present their proposals to the City’s planning commission.

Redfearn noted that the students did what many thought impossible: “This was a year when both teams found value where industry hadn’t.”