Toreros for the win! NAIOP Declares USD the Winner of University Challenge 2019

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Toreros for the win! NAIOP Declares USD the Winner of University Challenge 2019

A student team from University of San Diego’s Burnham Moores Center for Real Estate submitted the winning redevelopment plan, entitled Delta District, for the SPAWAR site at NAIOP San Diego’s 9th annual University Challenge, held on Thursday, April 25 at Amp&rsand in Mission Valley.

The USD student team, comprised of Alex Barachinni, Zachary Burns, Mitch DiLorenzo, Claire Hunn, Alex Spangler and Ryan Todd, presented their mixed-use redevelopment plan for the 48.7-acre eastern portion of the SPAWAR property, located along the west side of the I-5 Freeway in Old Town. Teams from San Diego State University’s Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate and University of California, San Diego’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning also competed.

The teams consisted of up to six students with the objective of creating a development plan exemplifying the highest and best use for the proposed site.

“Considering that SPAWAR has recently issued an RFP to professional development firms for the redevelopment of this site, a lot of people in our industry were very interested to see what the students devised this year, and they weren’t disappointed” said NAIOP San Diego President Adam Seery of Harvest Small Business Finance.

The USD students’ $1.6 billion, 4.15-million-square-foot plan, called Delta District, detailed “an innovative, multi-purpose center that promotes San Diego culturally, socially and economically.” Its mix of uses include housing (market rate, affordable, co-living and military transitional), hotel, retail and office as well as Patriot Outpost, a hub for veteran services and micro rental units marketed toward military personnel. The students also included a 154,000-square-foot Innovation Center, with space to accommodate education and technology uses as well as a gaming theater.  

On behalf of the judging panel, Mike McNerney of LOWE commented that Delta District stood out particularly for its public benefits and celebration of San Diego’s military history.

Entries were judged by San Diego real estate luminaries McNerney, Dennis Cruzan of CRUZAN; Casey Brown of Casey Brown Company; Yehudi Gaffen of Gafcon; Kevin Heinly of Gensler, Kelly Moden of Murfey Company, Mike Paris of U.S. Bank and Mike Mahoney of Ryan Companies, as well as SPAWAR’s Captain Brien Dickson.  

Special guest City of San Diego Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell attended to provide the student teams and audience with context of the surrounding area and community plan. She described the SPAWAR site as a “perfect mix of what San Diego was in the past and what it’s going to become,” and told the students that “outside-the-box thinking is what we need.”

Throughout the competition, the teams had access to volunteer architectural experts from LPA Inc., Ware Malcomb and SGPA Architecture & Planning. They were also allowed to turn to professionals at Turner Construction; Mark McGovern of CBRE for finance questions; Dave Davis of DF Davie Real Estate Inc for appraisal information; Michael Leake of Sheppard Mullin for legal questions; and John Keating of LLG Engineers about parking issues. The students accessed their alumni in the industry for additional assistance.

The USD team’s staff advisors were Jake Schwartz and Stath Karras. In the nine years of the University Challenge competition, this is USD’s second win.

University Challenge was moderated and organized by committee leaders Charlie Abdi of Finest City Realty, Chris Pascale of CBRE, Gary Katz of Presidio Property Trust, Kelly Moden of Murfey Company and Kevin Heinly of Gensler.

Proceeds from University Challenge go to NAIOP San Diego Foundation, which supports its annual scholarship programs.

About NAIOP San Diego 

NAIOP San Diego is a chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and it comprises more than 750 members serving the local San Diego market. NAIOP is the leading organization for developers, owners and related professionals in office, industrial and mixed use/retail real estate, with 19,000 members in North America. NAIOP advances responsible commercial real estate development and advocates for effective public policy. For more information, visit