Ashlee Buchholz,
Ellis Ivory, left, stands with (second left to right) Justin Earl, Allen Argyle and Nathan Erickson, along with Gov. Gary Herbert, right. Earl, Argyle and Erickson won the top prize at the Utah Real Estate Challenge for their project to develop a 464-bed student housing community near the University of Utah campus.
Students have been very adept at real estate analysis and underwriting. The (finalist) projects that have been proposed in past years and today definitely have some legs and could be done. —Executive director Buzz Welch

SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes big ideas come from those with the least experience and big dreams.

Judging from the smiles on the faces of the winning team Friday at the 2012 Utah Real Estate Challenge, those dreams can really come true. A trio of graduate students from the University of Utah won the 2012 challenge Friday — along with the $20,000 first prize.

Justin Earl, Nathan Erickson and Allen Argyle took the top prize with their proposal for University Station — a 464-bed student housing community on a 2.24-acre parcel located on 400 South near Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"It's exciting to win," Argyle said. "It takes a lot of work to get here."

Earl said the project took a year to organize and develop. The work to get the actual project built is the next objective.

"We've had multiple unsolicited offers from investors to participate in the project," Earl said.

The team members met while enrolled in graduate school at the David Eccles School of Business at the U. Each earned a master's degree in real estate development.

The Utah Real Estate Challenge is a real estate development plan competition that invites submissions from students throughout the state. Launched in 2007, the UREC annually awards thousands of dollars in prize money to winners and finalists.

Development plans typically cover a broad range of real estate types — from senior housing to big-box retail with submissions from nine colleges and universities around the state.

Teams of students from across the state of Utah are asked to develop in-depth proposals for potential real estate development projects in their respective communities. The project proposals were reviewed by a panel of Utah's top real estate professionals, who selected the finalists and winners.

The goal of the Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center — a privately funded professional center within the David Eccles School of Business — is to provide high-level real estate industry education and research, said executive director Buzz Welch.

The other finalists included Eagle Mountain Storage — a plan to develop 2.55 acres located in Eagle Mountain to include a storage center called Eagle Mountain Storage along with planned office space.

Another project was Cornerstone — a proposed 168-unit mixed-use student housing development in Provo, and the fourth was The Hub — a proposed mixed-use transit-oriented development adjacent to Layton's new transportation hub.

Welch said the program offers its participants a great venue to cultivate their talent and ideas.

"Students have been very adept at real estate analysis and underwriting," Welch said. "The (finalist) projects that have been proposed in past years and today definitely have some legs and could be done."

He said the major benefit to the program was the opportunity for participants to network and learn from industry professionals — interactions that have had positive results for nearly every student involved.

"One hundred percent of the students who participated in this program over the last four years have been placed in jobs that are real estate-related," Welch said.

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