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UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 6 | Jun. 2, 2005

Business Prof Makes Challenge a Winning Experience

By Brenda Austin

When Yosh Kasahara talks to a prospective employer he finds it a huge advantage to show he has “real-world” experience.

A fourth year BComm student at the UBC Sauder School of Business, Kasahara was one of six members of the winning team in the Northwest Real Estate Challenge, put on by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP). UBC’s competitors were graduates from Portland State University and the University of Washington.

The project for each team was the production of a professional proposal for a multi-use urban community site in Seattle -- a problem area with political, heritage and ownership issues. The site was adjacent to the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks football team.

The initiative for getting UBC students involved in the challenge came from Tsur Somerville, director of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at Sauder. He acted as a mentor to the UBC students who say he did an incredible amount of work to add value to the program.

“The type of experience we had in the challenge,” says Kasahara, “is important for a complete education and it is appreciated by employers.” He was able to show the published proposal with creative solutions at a recent job interview with a leading Lower Mainland residential developer, which resulted in a job offer.

The UBC winning project, named “Stadium Square,” was the result of three months’ research, analysis and problem-solving by the students from January to March 2005. It tried to link the excitement a stadium generates to the heritage environment of nearby Pioneer Square.

UBC students began work for the challenge with an internal competition at Sauder, to determine which of two teams of students would represent the school at the Seattle competition. Somerville enlisted mentors for each UBC team from his industry contacts -- Doug Avis from Canada Lands, UBC alumnus Michael Flanigan of the City of Vancouver, Michael Katz, of Katz Architecture, and John Scott, of CEI Architecture.

Both teams worked on the Seattle project with two mentors each and then presented their analysis and solutions to three real estate professionals at UBC Robson Square.

The wining team of Kasahara and fellow students Scarlett Duntz, Varinder Grewal, Neil Hahn, Hanson Ng and Roy Parappilly, with help from Timothy “T.J.” Rak from the other team, continued to the next phase of the competition.

Each student put in at least 30 hours a week to research the feasibility, marketability, financial viability, and resource utilization of the Seattle project.

“The judges said the reason we won was because we concluded the return on this project for an investor was insufficient in relation to the risk level, and because we showed how lifting some key constraints would make the project feasible,” says Kasahara.

They worked, as did the teams from Portland University and Washington University, with Washington State industry resources familiar with the project, who specialized in finance, construction, architecture and real estate. The teams presented their respective proposals to a panel of 13 industry judges drawn from Seattle, Portland, Bellevue and Vancouver.

While the judges deliberated, the teams presented their solutions to a larger group of around 200 people at a NAIOP-organized dinner.

The announcement of UBC as the winning team was made immediately following this event and they received a trophy, plus $5,000.

“The students who competed in this challenge and in the earlier competition at UBC are light years ahead in getting a job, not only through the experience they gained, but from the contacts they made,” says Somerville.

The success in the challenge project rested for some students on their previous participation in one of the other Sauder mentoring programs such as the summer internship program, which has been in operation for about four years.

Somerville arranges 10 or 11 internships a year with groups such as Bentall Capital, Grosvenor, Colliers, and UBC Properties Trust.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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