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T3 project brings St. Thomas contest honors

The T3 office building at 323 Washington Ave. N. in Minneapolis’ North Loop grabbed the attention of judges in the Colvin Case Study Challenge. A team from the University of St. Thomas profiled the development, marketing and market impact of the project. (File photo: Bill Klotz)
A market profile three University of St. Thomas graduate students wrote of the T3 office building in Minneapolis’ North Loop has won them a runner-up finish in a national real estate competition.

Ivan Alvarado, Will Henke and Ryan Sadeghi brought St. Thomas its highest-ever placing in the 3-year-old Colvin Case Study Challenge, and did it against a set of finalists coming from much larger schools.

The St. Thomas team emerged from a field of 29 competitors to make it in December to an in-person project presentation at the University of Maryland, which sponsors the Colvin challenge. Four finalists presented in the event, including eventual winner Penn State University. The St. Thomas team received a $2,500 prize for the second-place finish.

The Colvin competition differs from other collegiate real estate contests in that it revolves around completed projects, said Alvarado.

“In most competitions, they give you a site and say ‘Build something,’” he said in a Thursday interview. “For this project, you really want to look at the whole project, beginning to end.”

A panel of real estate professionals evaluated the competing teams’ understanding of markets, project valuation, finance, urban design, entitlement processes, and operational issues, according to the competition’s website. Teams were required to select recently completed commercial real estate projects valued between $25 million and $150 million that they consider to be “innovative.”

The St. Thomas team considered a few project possibilities, but chose T3 for its potential to change the office market because of its building method, Alvarado saidT3, at 323 Washington Ave. N., is said to be the first timber frame commercial office building constructed in the United States in more than 100 years. The 221,552-square-foot building is 83 percent occupied and is anchored by Seattle-based Amazon, according to CoStar.

LaSalle Investment Management paid $87 million for the building in May.

The team got an inside track on the building’s development and leasing story in part because Alvarado works as a real estate research intern with the Twin Cities office of JLL. JLL marketed the building for the developer, Houston-based Hines. Both companies assisted the students with their research, Alvarado said.

T3 was a strong choice for the team because of how the building’s construction type represents a paradigm shift in the office market, said Herb Tousley, St. Thomas’ director of real estate programs.

“They want something with a story about it,” he said in an interview.

A team from the University at Buffalo in New York placed third in the competition, and a team from Cornell University was fourth.

St. Thomas earned “honorable mention” honors in the competition in 2017 and 2016.

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