CRE N Illinois

Eisenberg Foundation names winner in Midwest Real Estate Challenge

On Saturday, April 6 at the Standard Club, student groups from eight universities competed at the ninth annual Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation Real Estate Challenge for top honors and $10,000 in scholarships. Marquette University’s proposal, The Connect: a revitalization of life and play in Chicago Ridge, impressed the judges, along with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate team’s Ridge North development.

The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation partnered with Starwood Retail Partners to task students with devising in-depth plans to reimagine an 11.7 acre former big box space at the Chicago Ridge Mall. The 154,000-square-foot department store space, formerly occupied by Carson’s, was once a valuable component of the community’s commercial base but is currently vacant and awaiting a transformative redevelopment.

“The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation Real Estate Challenge is designed to provide students the opportunity to work alongside qualified mentors and industry leaders, giving them access to actual projects on the forefront of Chicago real estate,” said Al Klairmont, Real Estate Challenge judge and Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation board member. “The amount of thorough research, meticulous planning and creative thinking that has gone into each and every one of these proposals is truly impressive.”

The Connect, presented by Marquette University’s undergraduate team, suggested a solution designed to create an epicenter for the town of Chicago Ridge through a vibrant mixed-use development. The students addressed a nation-wide development challenge of former anchor tenants vacating big boxes in properties like this one. The group concluded that experiential entertainment sites will continue to be favorable retail properties that have the power to sustain the growth of e-commerce and suggested multifamily units, a hotel, an entertainment anchor, as well as a freestanding restaurant.

In the graduate division, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign presented Ridge North, using extensive market research to support their proposal. The team also suggested a mixed-use residential development consisting of a large residential complex, unique food and retail and multiple recreation components.

Through this valuable exercise, the student teams acted as individual development companies to design and present concepts in response to a request for proposal to a panel of distinguished judges, including: Vince Corno, Starwood Retail Partners; Barbara Harrison, city of Chicago Ridge; Al Klairmont, Imperial Realty; Paul Ruby, The Bon Ton Stores and Lori Wittman, Care Capital Properties. This year’s project was especially relevant, as it challenged a new generation to create solutions to the big box development issue that will affect their futures.

“There were so many fresh, innovative ideas for the retail space opportunities at Chicago Ridge Mall,” said Steven Yee, general manager of Chicago Ridge Mall. “We want to congratulate the top projects and thank the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation for their continued leadership in mentoring real estate students.”