By Joshua Burd
A team of Villanova University students took top honors for this year’s NAIOP New Jersey case study competition, offering a winning plan to repurpose a former silk mill in Paterson.
The group of four was victorious over students from Baruch College, Monmouth University and Montclair State University, all of whom presented virtually due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Each team offered concepts for site sponsor Blue Onyx Cos.’ redevelopment of the property at 24½ Van Houten St., with a focus on identifying and incorporating the site’s historic and regulatory requirements, while providing a mix of live-work offerings, experiential retail and dedicated creative space.
The winning team, which included Hunter Cuthbertson, Kyle Keenan, Elliott Eyring and Matthew Winschuh, also took home a $5,000 prize.
“This annual competition serves as a platform for educating local officials and students on development challenges, while promoting engagement of our student members with municipal leaders and providing innovative designs that have real value for sponsor companies,” said Gene Preston, NAIOP New Jersey’s chapter president. “Each of the student teams and their advisors are to be applauded for the hard work and considerable creativity they put into their projects.”
The winners of the sixth annual University Challenge Case Study Competition were to be announced at NAIOP’s Industry Insights dinner, which was scheduled to take place April 6 at the MC Hotel in Montclair. Instead, the Villanova team has been invited to attend and be recognized at the association’s President’s Awards Dinner in November.
“We’re so honored to have been a part of this year’s NAIOP New Jersey University Challenge,” said Levi Kelman, CEO of Blue Onyx Companies. “The opportunity to see the fresh perspective these students brought to the process was inspiring, and we were truly impressed by their efforts. The teams really brought their best thinking to this challenge, and components from all of their presentations are very much in consideration for our final plan. We’re so happy to see such strong potential in our next generation of commercial real estate leaders.”
The judges for this year’s competition included Kelman, Jeff Schotz of Newmark Knight Frank, Adam Pasternak of Russo Development, Matthias Hollwich of HWKN, David Nuse of the state Economic Development Authority and John Coté of Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. They considered financial feasibility, design excellence, resilience and sustainability and client goals in selecting the winner.
The Villanova University proposal emphasized the restoration of the buildings and the entire landscape, while capitalizing on the site’s location near the Great Falls National Historic Park, according to a news release. Plans included enhancing the experience of tourists visiting the area while elevating Paterson’s economic base by creating a community center that encapsulated the rich history of the city.
Under the plan, the historic identity of the site’s existing buildings would be maintained while allowing for the renovation of the interiors to house commercial, residential and retail uses as well as exhibit and studio space for artists and a dedicated cultural center. Sustainability elements included a pedestrian-oriented infrastructure, AquaCore technology to track energy usage, multi-stream recycling, a community garden and green roof and ample greenspace including a public walkway along the Passaic River.
“This win means so much to us as a team and a university,” said Cuthbertson, the Villanova team captain. “The Paterson project presented unique challenges and provided us with a fantastic forum to hone essential skills and showcase not only our knowledge of real estate fundamentals, but our creativity and imagination. Our success cannot be highlighted without thanking our faculty advisor and coach, Professor Tony Ziccardi, whose knowledge, advice and passion for the real estate industry will stick with us through many different phases of our careers.”