Exploring the Union of Real Estate and Higher Education

(June 28, 2017 – Chicago, IL) On May 31st, Focus Associate Vice President of Development, Christine Kolb was joined by Rex Tolliver (Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago), Brian Thompson (Executive Vice President of Investments, CA Ventures) and Jim Hennessy (Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate, University of Chicago) to discuss the future of campus-centric development at the Real Estate Finance Forum (REFF) bi-annual luncheon. Attendees of the event, held at the East Bank Club in downtown Chicago, included representatives of the real estate industry, higher-education institutions, and stakeholders from communities adjacent to the UIC and U of C campuses.


The conversation centered on the idea that institutions have the unique ability to catalyze adjacent community development by actively acquiring and/or developing off-campus real estate. Mr. Tolliver and Mr. Hennessy discussed how their respective institutions have played a role in supporting development initiatives in Hyde Park along 53rd Street and around the University Village and Little Italy neighborhoods. The off-campus development opportunities aren’t limited to student-housing; in fact, they have established a precedence for commercial, hotel, retail, institutional and recreational development as potential opportunities for campus-oriented development.

It is in this more complicated opportunity where higher education institutions and real estate developers have found a special symbiosis. Mr. Thompson discussed this relationship from the developer’s perspective and gave a clearer picture of where they have seen the impact of higher education, like in Hyde Park. The naturally occurring demographic trends that support investment adjacent to universities, takes some of the guess work out of developing in these neighborhoods. He also spoke to the hypothetical win-win that exists in the ways that the private sector leverages university investment, or can capitalize on the absence of an institution’s development activity.

Christine represents Focus as a board member and Vice President of Programs for the Real Estate Finance Forum and moderates panels like these throughout the year.

About Focus:
Focus is a premier development and general contracting company specializing in upscale multi-family and mixed-use projects throughout Chicagoland. Since our inception in 1993, Focus Development has delivered distinctive infill developments to the Chicago market valued at over $800 million and built real estate projects valued at over $1 billion through our general contracting arm, Focus Construction. We take pride in our superior craftsmanship, uncompromising service, and deep appreciation for quality architecture.

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