A team of students from George Mason University School of Business’ master of science in real estate development (MRED) program recently . This year’s win marks the program’s fifth victory in the Capitol Challenge in the last ten years.
NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, is the leading real estate organization across North America. Every year, the NAIOP DC|MS Chapter hosts the Capital Challenge, a competition in which teams of real estate students from universities in the Washington, D.C., area compete to create the best development plan for a challenging, real-world property. The teams must use both their creativity and analytical skills to assess and plan the project, balancing the property’s potential with financial feasibility. This year’s team triumphed against competition from three local schools.
Kat Grimsley, director of the MRED program, believes the challenge provides a fantastic opportunity for students to apply and demonstrate their learning. “We are excited to participate in the Capital Challenge every year because the intensity [and] complexity of the projects creates a fantastic opportunity for our students to demonstrate and hone their skills,” says Grimsley. “I appreciate all the effort and dedication our team put into this victory! I’d also like to thank the team’s consultants for their support and NAIOP MD/DC for making the Challenge possible each year.”
The students who compete in the Capital Challenge are selected on a competitive basis from current MRED students. Faculty advisor Mark Hassinger provided guidance and support for the following team of Mason students:
Aimee Fogarty (Vice President at Hammes)
Thomas Forde (Director of Facility Space Planning at Children's National Hospital)
Matthew Koss (Project Manager at Davis Construction)
Monique Morales (Assistant Project Manager at Brailsford & Dunlavey, Inc.)
Chassidy Reese (ARNG Risk Reduction/Substance Abuse Program Manager at the National Guard Bureau)
Kristin Ullman (Development Assistant at Peterson Companies)
According to Hassinger, Mason students have a history of demonstrating excellence in the competition: “It is an honor and pleasure to coach these very bright and dedicated real estate professionals/students. The participants (past and current) have taken [the] Challenge very seriously and have set a very high bar for each team. It is this created culture that allows Mason to field a very competitive team each and every year!”
For this year’s project, students were assigned two tasks: 1) Create an adaptive reuse plan for an existing vacant mall, and 2) Propose a redevelopment plan for the mall, with few restrictions. Mason students provided viable options for both tasks. The cornerstone of the winning solution was their plan for a dynamic, walkable, mixed-use community comprising rental and for-sale residential units, stores, restaurants, and other public features, which would maximize the property’s potential while remaining within the owner’s budget.
Tom Forde, one of the Mason students who competed, says the process was challenging but rewarding. “The NAIOP Capital Challenge gave our team the opportunity to test our analytical abilities in a real-world application; and to see how our proposal compared to the competition. It was an intense six weeks to go from problem statement to solution presentation, but the experience is real and rewarding. Our success is a testament to the leadership and guidance of our coaches and instructors, and to the power of networking, research, and critical thinking,” Forde says.
The team earned a $10,000 prize, as well as the coveted NAIOP trophy, which will be on display at the Mason Square Campus for the next year. is a 36 credit, in-person program run out of the Mason Square (Arlington) Campus. The programs enrolls new students each Fall and Spring term.