And the winner is…

It’s one of the most celebrated university rivalries in California, if not the nation.  Of course I’m talking about the quest for superiority between Stanford and U.C. Berkeley (‘Cal’).  Symbols of this battle of the Bay are visible not just on the football field but also in the classroom with the Annual ‘Golden Shovel’ Real Estate Challenge, organized by the San Francisco chapter of National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP).  And this year, we had front row seats.

The challenge was established in 1990 by a professor in real estate at Cal’s Haas School of Business with the goal of giving graduate students hands-on experience in real estate development.  Each year, teams from both Stanford and Cal are assigned to the same project site and given just 60 days to come up with a complete development proposal.  A select panel of expert jurors reviews both proposals and chooses a winner after the final team presentations in front of a who’s who real estate industry audience.

The subject site for this year’s challenge was the Warm Springs BART Station property, and the City of Fremont and BART were co-Site Sponsors for the Challenge.  BART’s surface parking area, along with several other sites already in the development pipeline, offer expansive, raw acreage for contiguous development within the Innovation District, bolstered by the upcoming extension of the BART line to Milpitas and San Jose in mid-2018.  As co-sponsors, our principle goal was to receive thoughtful analysis about the highest and best land uses for the site, while also maximizing development intensity with uses that encourage reverse commute and off-peak BART ridership.

And they did not disappoint.  Both teams produced insightful plans with creative strategies for redeveloping the site.  For Stanford, it was “Silicon Shores”, a seven building innovation hub with a mix of office, R&D, and amenity retail.  For Cal, it was “IGNITE”, a catalyst-driven build-to-suit R&D campus, leveraging the med-tech and cleantech industry strengths of Fremont, combined with the addition of a higher education anchor.  Both plans also included detailed entitlement and financing strategies, providing a strong framework to BART and the City for how to facilitate an ultimate development project on this site.

Though reportedly a very close match, Cal’s unique vision for the site and creative financing approach prevailed and they won this year’s Real Estate Challenge ‘Golden Shovel.’

There was much to be gained from this experience.  For BART, it documented two realistic plans for how to actualize increased ridership and financial returns from this asset.  For Fremont, it was the chance to shine a spotlight on Warm Spring in front of the real estate industry, as the subject of one of its most coveted awards.  For both agencies, it was an affirmation of our commitment to partner in maximizing this opportunity.

But perhaps, Cal’s project statement and associated tagline tells it best:

“IGNITE propels BART, City of Fremont, and emerging industries into the future with alternative revenue and increased ridership for BART, high-paying jobs, community centers, and financial returns for the developer.