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Haas Wins Back “Golden Shovel” in Competition With Stanford

One point for “Cal” in their running rivalry with Stanford.

The occasion is the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business’s victory over Stanford Graduate School of Business in the annual “Golden Shovel” competition.

In the competition, sponsored by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, teams representing Haas and Stanford GSB develop proposals for a commercial real estate project over the course of a semester.

This year, the project at hand involved the Warm Springs Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. Both teams drafted proposals on how to best design and finance a mixed-use development comprising 1.8 million square feet where there is currently a 2,000-space parking lot.

The Haas team’s proposal was titled IGNITE, with the tag line “Make Warm Springs hot again!” It outlined a development with offices, research and development facilities, parking and a community space.

IGNITE’s financing proposal involved issuing bonds, to be repaid with tax revenue from the development. In designing the project, teams had to take into account the city of Fremont’s zoning laws as well as BART’s development guidelines.

In a blog post about the competition, Fremont urban initiatives manager Cliff Nguyen said that while it was “reportedly a very close match, Cal’s unique vision for the site and creative financing approach prevailed.”

Nguyen said that everyone involved had something to take away from the competition: “For BART, it documented two realistic plans for how to actualize increased ridership and financial returns” and “for Fremont, it was the chance to shine a spotlight on Warm Springs in front of the real estate industry.”

For the team from Haas, meanwhile, it was a chance not just to gain hands-on-experience in working out the details of a commercial development, but also to recover the coveted “Golden Shovel.” Haas has now won the competition 16 times, compared with Stanford’s 13.

The competition carries a $2,000 prize, but that will be donated to charity.

Of course, before having the chance to take home the Golden Shovel, these students first won another kind of prize: admission to Haas.

In a way, applying to top MBA programs is like drafting a commercial real estate project from scratch: it requires being strategic about how you coordinate a large number of moving parts.

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