Atlanta's BeltLine, a twenty-two-mile loop of historic railroad encircling the city, has captured the imagination of developers, government officials, business leaders, and residents, with its potential to connect forty-five in-town neighborhoods with transit, parks, and trails.
Although planning is well underway to move this major economic-development project from vision to reality, completion of a light passenger rail system along the BeltLine could be years off, given right-of-way issues and existing freight use of a stretch of tracks. Community support is strong, but some skeptics question the value of a rail system that doesn't link homes and workplaces.
With these obstacles in mind, students in the College of Management's Financial Aspects of Commercial Real Estate course competed this semester to come up with the best plan for a development project along the BeltLine (a concept originated in a 1999 master's thesis by Georgia Tech architecture student Ryan Gravel). They had to consider unmet market needs and the financial viability of their proposals.
"The BeltLine is eight to ten years away from being operational," says course co-instructor Josh Taylor of Behringer HARVARD, a real-estate investment trust company. "Current and proposed development along the BeltLine needs to be sustainable without the BeltLine transit component and facilitate the revitalization of certain intown neighborhoods."
The winning team in the course's third annual Kalikow Real Estate Competition, judged April 8 by outside real-estate professionals, included MBA students David Nelson and Nikos Papageorgiou, undergraduate management majors Trey Scott and Kevin Hurley, and city-planning students Jonathan Trementozzi and Brian Stockton.
They developed a proposal for a seventy-three acre mixed-use project in Boulevard Crossing, a blighted industrial area in southeast Atlanta blocking the spread of Grant Park's gentrification into neighboring Chosewood Park. Including 20-percent affordable housing and fifteen acres of green space, their project would be developed in two phases: first a retail district with condos, then a neighborhood district with brownstones, flats, a YMCA, school and assisted living city.
"Their proposal stood out because their development meets a need for the neighborhood by bringing in retail and new housing," explains Taylor, who co-taught the course with Lara Hodgson of Dewberry Capital Corporation.
Financial Aspects of Commercial Real Estate is a two-semester course. Students focus on principles of real-estate investment and development in the fall, applying those lessons to real-world case studies in the spring, when preparation for the Real Estate Competition takes up much of their time.
The competition is sponsored by New York real-estate developer Richard Kalikow, who recognizes that unlike most universities, Georgia Tech offers all of the academic disciplines necessary to make a developer. "Architecture, building construction, all the engineering disciplines, finance, and management - it's all here."
Kalikow winner David Nelson, a second-year MBA, says the competition was a rewarding experience. "We got to showcase our talents in real-estate and put into real-life what we've been learning about real-estate finance," he says. "I think we came up with a project that's really creative as well as realistic."