Columbia Business School Students’ Winning Case Competition Envisions Redevelopment of Boston’s City Hall

By Kevin Cullen ’19 and Taylor Pierce ’19


On March 28, 2019, a team of real estate students from Columbia Business School won first place in the CASE Competition hosted at Harvard Business School. The team included second-year students Taylor Pierce, Kevin Cullen, and Oscar Hentschel, and first-year student Sophie Nitkin.


The annual competition—started in 2009 by the Alumni Association for the MIT Center for Real Estate (AACRE)—challenges teams to analyze and submit proposals for a complex, mixed-use development site. The site for the 2019 competition was Boston’s City Hall: a brutalist architecture building and underutilized, concrete-covered, nine-acre plaza.


Twenty-four teams from graduate programs across the world traveled to Harvard for the one-day competition. Nine teams advanced to the second round, and three were selected for the final round which included live presentations in front of industry executives from the Boston community. At each stage of the competition the questioning was more advanced and the judges more senior. Georgetown (M.S. Real Estate) and M.I.T. (M.S. Real Estate) won second place and third place, respectively. This is the first time that a team from Columbia Business School has won the event since its inception in 2009.


The CBS team proposed a mixed-use development of five buildings, including two office buildings, two residential buildings, and a community and arts center. The team took great care in the design and sizing of each building, and fit the site to create an inviting space for the public to enjoy while generating sufficient risk adjusted returns.  


Some key features of the team’s design included environmental sustainability, mass transit oriented development, and a meaningful amount of affordable housing.  Additionally, the team carefully phased the project to allow for City Hall (the site’s current owner and tenant) to operate continuously throughout construction.     


Since 2017, the annual event has been organized by a consortium that includes M.I.T. Center for Real Estate, Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, University of Cambridge, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Additionally, The CASE Competition is sponsored by Boston Properties, Turner Construction, CoStar, Grosvenor, and Goulston & Storrs.


The 2020 CASE Competition will be hosted at Columbia Business School for the first time.


Kevin Cullen ’19 is a 2nd MBA candidate at Columbia Business School focused on Real Estate.  He has served as a Peer Advisor, Chief of Staff for Cluster Y’19, and is an active member of the Real Estate Association.  Prior to attending CBS, Mr. Cullen was Vice President of Development on at The Conti Group where he gained domestic and international experience in project development. 


Taylor Pierce ’19 recently graduated from CBS. He is focused on real estate and completed a summer acquisitions and development internship with The Hanover Company, a national multi-family developer. Prior to Columbia Business School, Taylor worked at Vanbarton Group, a NYC-based real estate private equity firm, focusing on office and multi-family assets in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.

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