Situated at the northwest corner of the intersection of 300 South and 200 East in downtown Salt Lake City, Edison Place rises almost 200 feet into the sky. With verdant green-space lining its middle tier, this brand-new development features retail space, restaurants, and a combination of affordable and luxury housing.
If one passes that spot today, they see a squat storefront sporting an amalgamation of colors and shops. Edison Place does not currently exist, but its design was conceived of by two juniors in the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department at Utah State University, Amy Cervantes and Josh Quigley, along with their teammates from the University of Utah, Carl Spikner and Spencer Jolley.
The team of Cervantes, Quigley, Spikner and Jolley — dubbed CCSQ — placed second out of the nine teams at this year’s Utah Real Estate Challenge, taking home $10,000 in addition to the recognition that they received from industry professionals and the experience they gained. The annual competition is hosted by the Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.
“I loved planning the plaza because it reaches outside of the property boundaries to connect people with urban trails and transit, but I am most proud of the affordably priced housing that Quigley and I championed,” Cervantes said. “Edison Place offers a range of prices for an equally diverse city, and it’s economically viable, not just a bleeding-heart ideal.”
“I think the biggest challenge or the biggest learning curve was approaching this project as equal parts finance and design,” Quigley said. “Designers speak a very different language than business and finance people.”
Whereas Spikner and Jolley were master’s degree students in the David Eccles School of Business and many of their competitors were in master’s programs at their respective universities, Quigley and Cervantes have just completed their junior year of undergraduate studies.
The competition’s first round began on Feb. 27, with nine teams submitting five-page design proposals. Three finalist teams were selected from the pool of competitors, and they spent the following 8-10 weeks refining their designs, calculating construction and operation costs, and working with mentors to create 25-page business plans and 10-minute video presentations.
According to the judging criteria, teams were evaluated on their communication, land use design, sustainability, originality, market demand, and investment costs. The real estate challenge offered unique opportunities and challenges for the two LAEP students who were primarily trained in design, as it placed great emphasis on the financial side of real estate development and planning.
About team CCSQ’s second-place finish Cervantes said, “I wish I had said ‘timber frame’ earlier in the competition,” referencing a prominent feature of the first-place team’s design. “I was happy to place, and I’m excited to see the site develop.”
Investors and professional developers do take notice of winning proposals in this competition.
In 2017, another team with USU students placed second overall for their design at a site in Thanksgiving Point, and developers got in touch with the team to discuss their ideas immediately after the competition, according to Todd Johnson, an associate professor in the LAEP department and the mentor to the CCSQ team.
In 2019, the competition’s chosen site was the Emporium block in downtown Logan. Johnson said developers made adjustments and incorporated some of the students’ work into the proposal they submitted to the City of Logan.
USU began participating in the real estate challenge in 2016, when alumnus Kurt Altvater, a senior vice president at commercial real estate giant CBRE, encouraged Johnson to organize student participation and mentor USU teams entering the competition. Johnson had been considering a class that would join elements of finance in real estate development with architectural/environmental design, so he created LAEP 4040 – E Studio/Entrepreneurship in Planning and Design.
E Studio is a course that LAEP students can take in preparation for any national design competitions, and taking the course in conjunction with entering these competitions can accelerate and enhance a student’s capabilities, according to Johnson.
“It’s a super intense learning experience, and you get immediate feedback,” Johnson said. “You’re acting in a more professional capacity because you’re really accountable to the product.”
“I think I learned more in that class than I have in a lot of my other classes,” Quigley said. “It's probably some of the hardest credits you'll ever take, but you will learn more real-world applicable information and how to make your amazing design actually happen in the real world by taking that class.”
In addition to the prize-winning competitors, USU students Jordan Goff, Conner Howard, Kali Clarke and Jacob Mortensen entered the real estate challenge. This year’s competition differed from previous iterations as all teams were required to draft plans for the same site in downtown Salt Lake City. Team DISC Development won the $20,000 grand prize this year with contributions from team members Scott Rojahn, Cole Macadaeg, Daniel Popowski, and BYU student Karsten Rasmussen. TEDD Partners, a team composed of BYU students David Egbert, Taylor Lind, David Bogdan, Brock Gardner, and Enoch Yiling Sng, placed third and earned $5,000.
The video presentations made by the three finalists are available at https://eccles.utah.edu/ivory-boyer-real-estate-center/utah-real-estate-challenge/, in addition to the recorded live stream of the winners’ placement and the competition guidelines.