Annual competition spotlights innovative strategies in real estate impact investing

Miami Herbert Business School competition highlights innovative approaches to impact investing in real estate.
Annual competition spotlights innovative strategies in real estate impact investing
University of Miami team members, from left to right: Joshua Simpson, Daniel Cutimanco, David Flaxer, and Nicolas Montana.

A team from York University, located in Toronto, took first place in the Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate Competition, with a University of Miami team taking second and contestants from the University of Florida coming in third. York University’s win, which occurred in April, marked the first time that non-U.S. students have triumphed in the annual Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate  (CRE) Competition.

“The goal of the competition is to teach students to be transformative when it comes to CRE development,” said Miami Herbert Professor of Finance Andrea Heuson, who oversees the Accelerated MBA in Real Estate program. “We want to impress upon them that you can create impactful projects if you lay the groundwork properly.”

The Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate Competition is an annual event that’s been held on eight occasions. It’s been hosted by the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School and sponsored by Miami Herbert’s Real Estate Advisory Council. Along with subsidizing travel and accommodations for participating students, the Real Estate Advisory Council generated $25,000 in prize money that was shared between the three winners of the 2024 Competition. 

There were 14 submissions to this year’s Impact Investing in Commercial Real Estate Competition, from eight schools. Real estate professionals associated with Miami Herbert reviewed contest entries and also judged the event.

York University winner Bianca Gornik, who’s working on a master’s degree in real estate and infrastructure, said she and her colleagues “thought we had a realistic chance of placing top-three. Our development is a mixed-use, purpose-built rental development that is located on transit-connected land and within a 10-minute walk to York University. The project creates a unique impact investing opportunity, through the provision of affordable housing units, socially-minded commercial tenants, and sustainability certifications.”

The University of Miami was represented by master’s graduate student Daniel Cutimanco, along with David Flaxer and Nicolas Montana, both working on a master’s of real estate development + urbanism degrees. Their fourth teammate was Joshua Simpson, who currently works for a Pinecrest commercial real estate firm, and had entered the competition prior to earning his Accelerated MBA in Real Estate in Fall 2023.

The University of Miami team focused on the Northside Area, an underdeveloped tract northwest of downtown Miami that is transitioning from an industrial designation to mixed-used.

“It’s a traditionally industrial area and the properties around that area are all industrial, or older houses and trailers,” Joshua Simpson explained. “So, there hasn’t been any investment in that area in quite some time. We wanted to have something that was impactful, but we didn’t want to have something that was gentrifying at the same time.”

Flaxer characterized the competition as “an opportunity to really work on something that I think you would encounter out in the real marketplace. So, I felt like it was a good opportunity.”