These are exciting times to be a real estate developer in Baltimore. With a number of new initiatives designed to grow the city’s economy, and new zoning regulations to better support real estate development, the University of Baltimore is excited to launch the UB Real Estate Fellows and Venture Competition (REFVC) — an innovative way to support emerging developers who have the education and desire to work in Baltimore, but lack experience in the management and financing requirements of real estate development. The REFVC is the culmination of months of internal and external planning, all focused on how the University of Baltimore can deliver the metropolitan area’s best educational experience in real estate development – from envisioning a project straight through to its funding and construction. In that regard, Baltimore deserves the very best in terms of intellectual prowess, work ethic, and more.
The competition, launching this month, will provide a series of curated trainings with local development experts and community tours for the student fellows chosen to participate. Each of the fellows will identify a neighborhood, create a project, complete a development plan and usher through an application for underwriting. The goal is for students to provide a “pitch” for a development project that is feasible and addresses a genuine community need. The winning proposal will get the necessary financing up to $1 million in a Guidance Line of Credit from Baltimore Community Lending (BCL), a local U.S. Treasury Certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).
For the past five years, as director of the Real Estate & Economic Development (REED) program in the Merrick School of Business, I, along with my colleagues, have been working with our students to train them in business and real estate principles with a particular focus on applied learning and social entrepreneurship. I have watched these dedicated students, many of whom are fine craftspeople who have developed or “flipped” one or two properties at a time, attempt to grow their skills into a sustainable development business. But moving from a small-business to a mid-sized one requires two kinds of access: to capital and to a good team with whom they can gain the experience to help them reach a recurring level of financial and development success. Indeed, real estate development is never a “one and done” experience. Success in this field is measured in how many times the developer has negotiated his or her way through the process. With the UB Real Estate Fellows and Venture Competition, we intend to ensure a great experience and a successful outcome. The winners are many: the students, the city, UB, and our incredible diversity of neighborhoods.
Good Timing for Development
The ability to offer this kind of program is extremely timely. With the completion of the City’s new zoning code in 2017 that helps clarify the rules of development, major capital investments in 21st century schools, the upcoming disbursements of the community catalyst grants by the City’s Department of Housing, and innovative financing resources through Mayor Pugh’s Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund and federal Opportunity Zones spurring development in emerging neighborhoods, we are sitting on the cusp of great things happening in Baltimore. But this optimism comes after a long period of uncertainty: since the economic downturn of 2007, Baltimore has lost several competent mid-sized development teams that specialize in development projects ranging from $2 million to $10million. Yes, the economy has recovered, but the problem today is the lack of developers with the financial equity, experience and bandwidth to continue the rebuilding and stabilization of challenged neighborhoods.
To be prepared for these impending opportunities, I am very excited to launch our new University of Baltimore Real Estate Fellows and Venture Competition in partnership with BCL. With their perspective from the lending side, BCL is also interested in supporting developers who can provide workforce housing and other neighborhood amenities in middle-market areas. The challenge in many well-established neighborhoods has been both awareness of and access to capital for otherwise potentially competent and supportable developers located in Baltimore City.
With our UB students and alum eager to engage in more socially-conscientious development, and BCL looking to lend to sustainable developers in middle-market neighborhoods, a happy match was born! The 2019 UB Real Estate Fellows and Venture Competition provides a series of curated trainings with local development experts and community tours for the student starting in February through May 2019.
This project provides students and alumni who are learning about or have experience in Real Estate and Economic Development and want to start their own business with the hands-on technical assistance that only comes with experience, trial and error. Students at UB are generally working professionals during the day, so will be paid at least $1,000 as a Fellow so that participants in the challenge can take every advantage of the program.
Working also with UB’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) that routinely conducts student business competitions such as “Startup Maryland”, students will have access to CEI resources on how to put together a successful pitch. The final pitch competition will be scheduled during the week of June 3.
Partners in the Project
The REED Program at the University of Baltimore is the only undergraduate program of its kind in Maryland and began in 2007. There are currently 45 matriculating students, several of whom have some small-scale experience in construction and development and come to UB in hopes of growing a business. Incubating the next generation of mid-sized developers is of critical importance to the City of Baltimore. The REED program and the REFVC is supported by an active Advisory Board who represent all sectors within the metropolitan real estate industry and will be involved to provide guidance to the students during the competition.
BCL also has existing relationships with banks in the region such as PNC, BB&T M&T and other local financial institutions who will be a part of the evaluation and selection process.