Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Michael Gazzano, MRED ’12
Michael Gazzano graduated this past May with his Master of Real Estate Development degree from the Sol Price School of Public Policy. He was recently promoted to Development Manager of Caruso Affiliated, renowned developer of retail and residential properties and one of the industry’s premier firms. In addition, Gazzano holds a bachelor of science degree in urban planning from the USC Price School.
When you reflect back on the MRED program, what experiences really helped to shape your way of thinking?
USC’s MRED program is unique among its peers because it is located in the Price School of Public Policy. Being located in a policy school gives us an advantage, because real estate development is taught from a holistic viewpoint that real estate development is not just a pro forma and has more to do with the role a development project has in the community. Professor Chris Redfearn challenges his students to think critically about real estate and invoke thoughtful debate in the classroom.
What was your favorite part of the program?
In the fall semester, I participated in the annual USC vs. UCLA NAIOP Case Competition. It is a 6-week case competition to solve a real world development issue. We were charged with developing an “urban village” concept in downtown Anaheim. After the competition, our team was hired as consultants by the owner of the site to help him bring our vision to reality. He chose our team’s concept because it was not only economically feasible, but also the right project for the community as we did a tremendous amount of outreach to the local residents, neighborhood groups, planning department, city council and local businesses. Not to mention, we had the opportunity to meet with Rick Caruso for this project, which led to my internship and full-time position.
Can you elaborate on the opportunity to transition from an intern to Development Manager at Caruso Affiliated?
I started off as an intern this summer in the Finance & Investments group, evaluating investment deals and financing strategies. I was given the opportunity to work with a lot of different departments so I could get an understanding of how all the pieces work together, which was an invaluable experience. This allowed me to demonstrate what I had learned in the classroom and apply my skills to issues facing the company. At the end of the internship, my background and ambition aligned with an opportunity they created in the Development group. I have always admired Caruso Affiliated’s projects and I couldn’t be more excited to join an impressive group of individuals.
In your role as Development Manager, what is a typical work day like?
Right now, we are in the due diligence and community outreach phase for the project in Carlsbad. We are meeting with community members and city council to listen to what they would like to see at the site and what their concerns are.
What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge with this project is getting all the necessary approvals from various agencies. With our successful track record of community engagement, we foresee a streamlined entitlement process.
How have the knowledge and skills you acquired at USC Price helped you in your professional work?
The importance of teamwork and presentation skills that were emphasized in the classroom prepared me in my professional career. Starting in undergrad and all the way through graduate school, group projects and presentations played a vital role in every class. In the real world, successful projects are completed with a team of people, including collaboration between public and private sectors.
What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?
Guests come to our properties to gather, shop, dine, watch a movie, meet up with a friend or just to enjoy the atmosphere. Knowing that I am part of the team that will deliver the project to a community, and create value for the city and its residents, is what I find to be the most rewarding. We are not just building another shopping center, we are building a project that will be the gathering place for the community.