By Emily Berg ’19 and Professor Brian Lancaster
What began as a lunch with Alastair Walton ’87, the Australian Consul General in New York, and Professor Brian Lancaster, Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Finance at Columbia Business School, to brainstorm the feasibility of creating a mixed-use cultural, residential, retail and office center to be called Australia House, led to a one-of-a-kind international public and private sector collaboration between Columbia Business School, the Australian Government, and Australian private corporations. Alastair challenged Brian to examine if this project would be economically feasible by achieving a high enough rate of return to get private sector finance and reduce costs on the Australian taxpayer. The challenge was for the best CBS students to work on a proposal for the Consulate. Professor Lancaster immediately set up an independent study and interviewed students for four positions on the team.
The project offered the four CBS students a unique educational and work experience opportunity to conduct a real estate feasibility study over the course of the Spring 2018 semester. The project’s objective was to determine the economic feasibility of developing a mixed-use commercial real estate project in New York City, with the Australian Government as a marquee tenant.
Reflecting the diverse skills and cultural backgrounds of CBS students, the four team members Einat Aldaag ’18, Emily Berg ’19, Jeremy Cowcher ’18, and Joy Kang ’18 hailed from Israel, Connecticut, Australia and Korea respectively, and brought their expertise in commercial real estate, finance, consulting, and architecture to undertake the feasibility study. The project also offered the students a unique networking opportunity as it required that the students meet regularly with senior stakeholders from Australian private corporations such as Denis Hickey, Chief Executive Officer of Lendlease Americas (Development and Construction); Melissa Burch, Executive General Manager Development, Lendlease Americas; Midori Wong, Associate Development Manager, Lendlease Americas; Jeremy Singer, Managing Principal, Woods Bagot (Architecture); Matthew Stephenson, Senior Associate, Woods Bagot (Architecture); Marcus Moufarrige, Chief Operating Officer, Servcorp (Co-working); and Alan Dixon, Chief Executive Officer, Dixon Advisory (Real Estate Investment).
Over the course of the semester, the team conducted thorough market research with respect to area office, residential, retail, and land pricing. This information was used to develop a proposed building program and financial models to underwrite the proposed development.
The CBS team presented their findings in May with a 50-page presentation on Australia House to the Consul General, Professor Lancaster, as well as other key project stakeholders including Government officials, area developers, investors, and architects.
The presentation and feasibility study were so well received that the Consul General asked for a second presentation with all of the stakeholders but this time including Lucy Turnbull, the former Lord Mayor of Sydney, wife of the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, and an expert herself in urban planning and real estate development.
The semester-long independent study project afforded the students a one-of-a-kind chance to engage at the highest levels with global businesses partners, government officials, peers, and alums to understand real-world real estate development reflecting the unique strengths that come with having the CBS Real Estate program located in the heart of the global real estate markets. Stay tuned.
Emily Berg ’19 is a rising second year student focusing on Real Estate at Columbia Business School. She is a graduate of Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and English, and prior to CBS covered Fixed Income at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. She plans to pursue a career in Real Estate in New York City after school.
Brian P. Lancaster is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Finance and Economics at the Columbia University Business School where he teaches two Real Estate Finance courses, the Real Estate Debt Markets course, and the Debt Markets course in the MBA program. Formerly, he taught the Real Estate Capital Markets and Debt Markets and Instruments courses in the MBA and EMBA programs at the Stern School of Business, New York University.