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By Danielle Everson

CHICAGO — Students from several prominent universities in the Midwest are competing in the fourth annual Midwest Real Estate Challenge to determine which team comes up with the best redevelopment plan for the Marshall Field & Co. Building in Chicago. The now vacant building once served as an upscale department store for Marshall Field’s and Macy’s.

Undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate student teams have been working for the last several months to develop ideas for the site and will present their final redevelopment plans at the one-day event, hosted by The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation. The competition runs from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, April 12 at the Standard Club of Chicago, 320 S. Plymouth Court.


Students will make their presentations before a panel of judges, who will evaluate their plans for the site based on innovation and design, financial feasibility and social and environmental responsibility.

Teamwork on Display

Student teams will make their presentations to a panel of judges, who will evaluate their plans for the site based on innovation and design, financial feasibility and social and environmental responsibility. The winning team’s university will receive a $5,000 scholarship, sponsored by 4K Diversey Partners LLC, and a trophy. Student teams from DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Roosevelt University, University of Notre Dame, and Marquette University will compete against one another.

As part of the challenge, teams create redevelopment plans that are economically viable and complement the unique uses surrounding a site. This year’s teams received information packets for the challenge in January, which described the project in detail and requirements for the competition. Some of the elements each team must have in their redevelopment plan include an executive summary providing a description of the site and its net value, a financial analysis, an economic analysis of what the redevelopment would add to the city and even a detailed timeline on the build-out of the site.

Each team is paired with volunteer advisors, who are real estate professionals based in Chicago. In addition, an advisory board comprised of students from John Marshall Law School will serve as volunteer legal advisors. The teams, along with their advisors, will determine what should be built on the property and provide a full analysis explaining their building plan as well as the effects their plan would have on the community.

Total Transformation

Student teams are developing plans for the former Marshall Field’s/Macy’s Warehouse. Macy’s vacated the building in early 2008, just three years after it acquired the property in 2005. Chicago-based 4K Diversey Partners LLC, a partner in the competition, now owns the 1.5 million-square-foot property, which is located at 4000 W. Diversey Ave. Merit Partners LLC handles the management, leasing and redevelopment of the 21-acre parcel.

Aaron Paris, partner at Merit Partners LLC and at 4K Diversey Partners, says the companies have already begun the planning and approval process for the redevelopment of the Marshall Field’s/Macy’s Warehouse property. He says Macy’s put the project on the market in 2008, which was a recessionary period for the real estate market, thus leaving the property vacant.

“We are very much looking forward to the plans, business models and marketing plans the students deliver. With new, fresh eyes looking at the project, we are positive there will be ideas and concepts that will get incorporated into our development,” says Paris.

Jenna Goebig, co-chair of the Midwest Real Estate Challenge, says the Eisenberg Foundation determines the site for the challenge each year by determining if the property has the potential to become a redevelopment that could positively transform a community.

“The property has to provide ample opportunity for students to propose a solution that is innovative, achieves financial feasibility and contributes to both social and environmental responsibility,” says Goebig. “This year, we chose to work directly with 4K Diversey Partners and Merit Partners while they were actively in the planning and approval process. This is also the first challenge that heavily incorporates adaptive reuse as part of the student proposals.”

Blue-ribbon Judging Panel

The expert judges include Ben Greazel, senior managing director of the Real Estate Finance Group at NGKF; Andy Koglin, president of OKW Architects; and Bill Shiner, founder and CEO of The Shiner Group. Paris and Paul Fishbein of Merit Partners and 4K Diversey Partners will also participate in the judging process. The judging panel will review the presentations and award the team with the best overall plan.

The Eisenberg Foundation focuses on offering scholarship opportunities for college students, and mentors young people by providing unique opportunities in the business world. The real estate competition is one of the many programs the organization sponsors.

“This competition gives college students a chance to create a comprehensive development plan for a very unique and historic space,” says Al Klairmont, president of Imperial Realty and an executive board member of the Eisenberg Foundation.

Klairmont says the initiative was designed to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to apply what they are learning in their university courses to the real estate work world.

In addition to capturing the scholarship award and a trophy, the winning team will be honored at the Eisenberg Foundation’s annual dinner in October. Previous winning teams in the competition include Roosevelt University (2013), Marquette University (2012), and the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (2011).

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