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Department of Land Economy

Environment, Law & Economics
Land Economists head to New York for international Real Estate challenge

A team of Land Economy students have taken part in an international competition in New York, where they competed against undergraduates from other top universities in trying to solve a real-life investment problem.


St John’s, Selwyn and Homerton Colleges all contributed students to the six-strong team, which took part in the 2014 Cornell Real Estate Case Competition earlier this month.

Run by the Cornell University Centre for Real Estate and Finance, the annual contest invites students from around the world to put the concepts and theories that they have studied to the test as they compete for a prize worth $22,000.

It is sponsored by a number of leading Real Estate firms, who provide the judging panel and devise an investment problem based on a real-world case. The teams are given five days to analyse the transaction and present their recommendations. They are judged not only on the final recommendation that they make, but on their approach to the problem, their presentation, and their ability to handle the judges’ questions.

This year’s challenge invited the contestants to assess a redevelopment opportunity for an office building in the San Francisco Bay area. The team was asked to determine the best use for the site, work out how to negotiate the contract with a development partner and establish how best to finance the investment.

For students undertaking the Land Economy course at Cambridge – an internationally-respected, interdisciplinary course that covers land, property, urban and regional planning, economics, law and environmental studies – the competition was a unique chance to test and demonstrate their knowledge in a real-world setting.

At the same time, it also gave them an opportunity to see first-hand some of the development challenges that face professionals working in New York City, a major centre for urban planning and regeneration. Part of the trip involved a visit to the site of the new World Trade Centre.

One student commented:

“ The case was great for creating a situation which required us to combine elements of the course and further our knowledge to come up with the best solution. It was also good to gain some exposure to the US market and to learn about their terminology and methods.”

Another said:

“ The trip is something I will remember for a long time. The opportunity to go to New York City and actually do something meaningful, to work up to a tight deadline on Wall Street and make it by the skin of our teeth – I am very grateful for having had this opportunity.”

Dr Eva Steiner, who is Fellow and Director of Studies in Land Economy at St John’s College and organised Cambridge’s participation, said that it had been particularly valuable because of the different level of learning experience that it provided.

“ It provided the students with a chance to test their analytical training against the real-world scenario with which they were presented, and to come to terms with the complementary skills that they will need when they leave Cambridge and compete for jobs in the global marketplace,” she added.

More information about studying Land Economy can be found on the Undergraduate study pages of the Department website.