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Lessons for Seattle from San Francisco

Several of our MSRE students recently visited San Francisco for the ULI Fall Meeting.  David Leon shares his thoughts on the changes and challenges in that city, and how they compare to the ones we are facing here in Seattle. Thanks, David!

A former colleague once said to me Seattle reminded him of San Francisco 15 years ago.  I find that there are many parallels: both cities are land-constrained, surrounded by beautiful scenery, tech-industry hubs, and are facing affordability and livability issues in housing as their growth cycles compound.

At the ULI Annual Conference earlier this month in San Francisco, both walking around and in conference sessions, I noticed many changes that may be coming to Seattle.  San Francisco’s waterfront highway has already come down, and the industrial waterfront has been transformed into tourist, office, and retail space.  Oakland, the blue-collar city across the bay, is now the regional shipping and industrial port.  Seattle’s viaduct will be gone soon, and a similar transformation could happen here, with the seaports of Seattle and Tacoma recently combining.

San Francisco has long been facing the challenge of homelessness and housing affordability.  I remember when I was in college in the late 1990’s walking along sections of Market Street where every alcove and doorway was occupied by somebody in their sleeping bag.  This time, I saw only a few people sleeping on the street.  Maybe they just moved to the park, but I also heard conference presenters talking about building micro-apartments downtown for formerly homeless people.  One could hope that Seattle would adopt a similar solution in addition to, or rather than, supporting the open-air encampments that currently exist in various locations around town.

Micro units also seemed to be the path to greater affordability, with developer Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests presenting on how both profitability and affordability improve when multi-family units are built smaller, with parking eliminated from buildings.  Professor Carol Galante of U.C. Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innnovation presented on how trends show more and more people moving into urban centers, with rental units as the fastest growing segment of the housing market.  This despite 70% of U.S. housing stock being single-family and zoned as such.  Her prediction was for greater density in urban centers, and assisted by government intervention like reducing the mortgage interest deduction, or not taxing accessory dwelling units.

The most impressive project presented at the conference was the Transbay Transit Center.  This is a massive effort to build out a multi-modal downtown transit center connecting the cities around the Bay Area via rapid transit, as well as the train to Los Angeles.  The transit center features a shopping mall as well as a large park on top of the roof.  The Transbay Joint Powers Authority was able to build with money from selling off surrounding land to developers, who are building what will be some of the largest office and multi-family buildings in the city, effectively extending the city’s skyline to the south of the Oakland Bay Bridge.  The tallest of these structures, the Salesforce building, would be the tallest in the city.

Another noteworthy presentation included a case study of Twitter’s new headquarters at Market Square, a renovated space that transformed an older building to suit the needs of the new tech economy.  And following up on that concept, several presenters invited us to imagine the future of a city that does not depend on workers going to any particular place to get work done, where nobody needs to own cars because cars would drive themselves and be available on demand, and where goods are bought and sold online in a global marketplace that need less retail spaces and more warehouses.

It was a very inspiring conference and a great trip.  How these trends and ideas might come to Seattle will of course be a matter of current trends in affordability, as well as overall market forces.  But ultimately any local transitions will be a test of whether there is sufficient popular will to move forward toward a denser, more transit-and-tech oriented city.


The Ferry Building


Breakfast with Runstad Center board members


View of Market Street and the palace hotel from NW ULI reception at One Kearny


Mural near Civic Center


TransAmerica Building

Travel benefits for Runstad students

One of the many benefits of an education at the Runstad Center is the unique opportunity to travel to a national conference and have exclusive access to a number of prominent figures in the industry.  Our students who attended the recent ULI fall meeting had a fruitful and exciting visit to San Francisco.  Shanon Ford writes in with this report from the City by the Bay:

“Recently, the Runstad Center arranged for members of the Class of 2016 to attend the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco. This conference of over 6,500 people allowed us to experience a major national real estate conference and learn from great speakers including Condoleeza Rice, Jerry Brown, and Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb. While the conference was great to participate in and learn from, the true value of the event was the behind-the-scenes events that the Runstad Center set up for the students. We were able to talk one-on-one with principals of several real estate companies including the huge industrial REIT, Prologis.  The event was educational and fulfilling and was just another example of the broad exposure to the real estate industry the Runstad Center provides to its students.”

RE Club hosts Argus training session

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One of the perks of being a Runstad Center MSRE student is the support we enjoy from the University of Washington Real Estate Club.  The Real Estate Club provides opportunities for networking, career development, and property tours for students who have an interest in real estate.  Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the real estate industry, its membership is comprised of students from the College of Built Environments, Foster School of Business, Evans School of Public Affairs, and the UW School of Law. The club is always open to other members of the UW community.

This week, the Real Estate Club provided 30 students with the opportunity to attend a 2-day certified Argus training for the newest version of Argus Enterprise.  Traditionally, the 2-day training session, training materials, 6-month subscription to Argus Enterprise and the ability to take the certification test would cost each student $1,800 to participate. However, with support from the Runstad Center, the Club was was able to offer a reduced rate of just $300 per student.

We offer our congratulations to the Real Estate Club leadership on this successful event – working together to make our students more competitive once they enter the job market!

UW team advances to finals in low-income housing competition!

A team of MSRE, M. Arch, MUP and MPA students from the University of Washington has been advanced to the final round in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Low Income Housing Challenge 2015.  Their proposal was for an affordable, multifamily housing development in the Wedge neighborhood of Tacoma. The Wedge neighborhood is located at a key intersection with the middle class North End neighborhood to the north and west and the low income Hilltop neighborhood to the south and east.  Lead by interdisciplinary faculty mentors including the Runstad Center’s Al Levine, the team aims to take the first step toward realizing a community-based vision for the new Wedge neighborhood with the development of affordable housing for local households.

Their next steps will be to develop a final written proposal and multimedia presentation, which will be shown at the celebration event next month in San Francisco.

Congratulations to our students for having their thoughtful concept and hard work recognized – and good luck!!

Runstad program among top 5 on the west coast!

Bisnow has named the MSRE program at the UW’s Runstad Center as one of the top 5 graduate real estate programs on the west coast!   We’re pleased and proud to receive this recognition.  Read the full article here — and stop by, call, email, or attend an information session to learn more about our new work-compatible curriculum!

Runstad Center Launches Innovative New Master of Science in Real Estate Curriculum

Responding to increasing demand from working professionals, the Runstad Center is pleased to announce that a new work compatible Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) curriculum will be offered beginning fall, 2015.  Courses will be taught two afternoons a week (and some evenings) and the time required to earn the degree has been shortened to 18 months for full time students.

Three new focus area “Options” have also been established: Real Estate Finance and Investment, Real Estate Development and Corporate Real Estate.  The corporate real estate option is the first program of its kind in the country and will train students to assume leadership roles in the corporate real estate services industry.  This segment of the real estate industry is experiencing phenomenal job growth as corporations outsource the management of their real estate assets and operations.  Early adopters of this national and international trend include important corporations based in the Puget Sound region such as Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and Starbucks.

Together these changes strengthen the relationship between the Center and the real estate industry, enhancing the talent pipeline for the skilled real estate professionals needed in one of the fastest growing regions of the country.  The program will continue to be interdisciplinary, drawing students and using faculty expertise from fields such as law, construction management, architecture, urban planning, public policy and business, among others. 

Applications are currently being accepted for the fall, 2015 class and are encouraged before May 1.  Scholarship assistance is available.  More information regarding the program and the admissions process is available on the Runstad Center website at  Please share this flyer with employees, colleagues, neighbors, friends or anyone else who might benefit from a graduate real estate education.

The approval by the UW Graduate School of the new curriculum represents an exciting new chapter for the MSRE program and we look forward to being able to better serve students who need to continue working at least part time while they pursue their graduate real estate education.

MSRE Flyer

Runstad Center Affiliate Fellows Program

It is a unique opportunity.

The Runstad Center Affiliate Fellows Program is designed to spark new thinking through unconventional, interdisciplinary collaboration and to engage a broad audience in a research topic within the rubric of sustainability. We pair Runstad Center graduate students with emerging industry thought leaders and College of Built Environments faculty for a year-long program of research and international field study.  In prior years, Runstad Fellows have traveled to Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Berlin/Krakow/Detroit.

Last year our Affiliate Fellows visited the cities of Cartagena, Bogotá, and Medellín in Colombia, South America to study “social urbanism”. Their work defined social urbanism as a set of strategies to provide the LOVE, CARE, and SUPPORT of investments in the built environment required to make communities thrive.  In Colombia, a key strategies included “Education = Equity” and “Physical Mobility = Social Mobility”.  Social urbanism as practiced in Colombia demonstrated unequivocally that “people empowered  people engaged  communities changed.”

The City of Medellín’s Planning Director, Jorge Perez, has said that “We need to create cities for life.” Civic leaders had to find ways to communicate with communities, then the communities could constructively join the planning and development conversation. Together they learned that you cannot create value by investing only in built projects, but that the primary investment must be in people. The leaders listened. The people listened to each other. The communities began to thrive.

In Medellín, they built urban escalators and a highly efficient network of cable cars to connect vast hillside communities with the city center, providing people access to jobs and to cultural opportunities. Over several decades, they granted franchises to citizens to hold title to their homes, allowing them to be invested in creating new, healthier communities. Where once had existed only an open landfill, now is a functioning laboratory of bioengineering. Where once their children roamed in danger, they now gather to play musical instruments.

The story continues in Bogotá, where they built 180 miles of separate right of way for bicycles and a sophisticated, ultra-modern bus transit network, connecting people on the outskirts to the heart of the city. They are quietly developing a new Bogotá Arts District, and while landmark buildings the world over have been financed by wealthy benefactors, the first skyscraper in Colombia is being financed by thousands of Colombians.

The Fellows group brought back to the people of Seattle a tale of resiliency and proof of the power of citizens to actually build a “city for life.” To tell the story, they created a presentation both artful and powerful, and have presented this work to the Runstad Center Advisory Board, to the broader professional community in a well-attended session at Impact HUB, to the College of Built Environments community, and, just this past January, to the National Association of Industrial & Office Properties meeting at the Four Seasons in Seattle.

Our current group of Affiliate Fellows are studying in Santiago, Chile, and in Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba, Brazil. We are excited about what they will bring back to us from a region so ready to discuss affordable housing, social cohesion, and resiliency. One of the Runstad Center’s highest priorities is to provide our top students an opportunity to broaden their worldview, and to engage both the academic and professional communities with fresh inspiration and working models for implementing change in our communities.  Check back this fall when the latest ideas gathered from South America will be presented to our community.

Alumni Highlight: Zachery Clements


Ask Zachery Clements how he feels about his experience as a Runstad student and the answer is as compelling as it is easy: “Fortunate and grateful for the opportunity and the timing.”

Zach, now working with Dunn & Hobbes, a Seattle-based investor and developer of urban infill mixed-use projects, says the greatest value of being in the Runstad program was the regional real estate community exposure, support, and connections fostered by the folks at the Center (and beyond) — leading to one-on-one conversations with people to get advice, recommendations, and mentorship. Paying it forward, Zach says, “Nearly 100% of people that I’ve reached out to have responded and been willing to meet, talk and share. I’m trying my best to continue that practice.”

In fact, what surprised him the most was the sheer number and value of connections leading from the real estate community and Runstad support network. “There are too many to list or count, from instructors to colleagues to other RE professionals through various channels, including the mentorship structure within the program, as well as bringing those professionals in to instruct portions of classes.

“The experience enabled my dream,” Zach has said, “acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to operate, contribute and add value to those people and companies I’ve been lucky enough to work with.” While he fully acknowledges there remains much more to learn and do, he is enjoying the process and opportunities that have been presented to him.

With a background in environmental consulting, he initially approached the MSRE program with the idea that he’d be working for a smaller, urban infill development firm, to acquire and develop “brownfield” properties, and that is exactly what he’s doing. “I had the notion that I wanted to practice brownfield redevelopment, but didn’t have the skills to understand the financial and feasibility sides of the field. I had a few connections in my network at the time, but had no idea how to gain the skills I needed or where to go to get them.” He realized immediately he’d discovered what he was looking for when he found the Runstad program.

Working for Dunn & Hobbes, a Seattle-based investor and developer of urban infill mixed-use projects, presents a lot of challenges and opportunities to learn and grow and continue to hone his real estate skills. No day is like the last — Zach’s days are “fresh and exciting and fast-paced.”

“I would not have been able to do this without the dedication of everyone who is a part of the MSRE program. It gave me the opportunity to jump into this world and provide some value.”

Fine words, Zachery Clements.

2014 CoreNet Scholarship Recipients


CoreNet recently recognized the 2014 scholarship recipients at their November luncheon.  Congratulations Zac Strode, Ben Lukes, Andrew Hunt, Michael Riha, and Brad Machat.  A sincere thank you to CoreNet Seattle Chapter President Scott Carter & Sponsorship Vice President John Coates III for your continued support of our students.

Hello from the High Line!

In October several 2nd year Runstad MSRE students headed up to NYC for the Annual ULI Fall Meeting. We might have lost a little of our dignity while celebrating into the late evening, but I’m happy to report that everyone is headed home!

This morning I had the opportunity to walk the world famous High Line. This above ground pedestrian path was originally intended for trains to carry goods to and from Manhattan’s industrial district. Due to shifts in transportation technology (18-wheelers) the trains were shut down in the 1980’s. Fortunately individuals in the neighborhood realized the potential the beautiful iron structure possessed, and worked to form the Friends of the High Line. Working with the City, Friends of the High Line selected James Corner (yes the same James Corner who’s working to redesign the Seattle Waterfront) to help redesign the unused tracks. The final portion of the track open just a few weeks ago, September 21, 2014. This definitely deserves a visit on your next trip to New York!

This amazing path now runs north from Gansevoort Street to the Hudson Rail Yards being redeveloped by the Related Companies in partnership with the City of New York. The picture below was taken from the High Line and shows the progress currently taking place at the Hudson Rail Yards. In the left of the photo you can see the Javits Center, home of this year’s ULI conference.

Patrick Kassin, Second Year MSRE Candidate