The Battle Between Vision and Reality

“If you build it, they will come.” 

The famous quote from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams where Ray Kinselle (Kevin Costner) hears voices while walking through his Iowa cornfield suggesting that he plow over his crop in order to build a baseball field for the ghost of major league players to reunite.  After almost going bankrupt, the last scene of the movie shows lines of cars coming to his ballpark to watch the games.

While not apart of the movie, I could assume that Ray did not perform a market study on his proposed development.  If he would have, the voice might have said something like “Don’t build a major league ball park in a cornfield.  It will not work.” While this makes for a pretty good movie plot, I am convinced that developers hear these same voices today.  “If you build it, they will come.”  There dreams become bigger than their realistic demand, but they choose to push through.  In reality, this normally does not end with the scene of cars coming to see his development and save him from devastation.  It simply ends in devastation.

However, there is always a battle.  Without vision, many of the best projects would not be in existence.  Who would have thought that building a city in the middle of a Nevada desert centered on gambling would attract visitors from around the globe?  However, with extreme vision, today Las Vegas is an international destination location for visitors that want to let loose for a few days. With over 150,000 hotel rooms, the city host over 39 million people every year.

I personally experienced this battle at our recent MRED residency.  This previous semester our class was broken into groups and assigned to present a response to a RFP (Request for Proposal) on an eight acre waterfront site in Columbus GA.  After completing the market study, our group made the decision that we would present a very basic project because the demand was simply not there.  On presentation day we told the group of owners, architects, and Auburn faculty that we propose one building on the site and leave a lot of green space for future growth if demand calls for it. Total project cost: $17 million.  We thought we nailed it.

We soon found out that the winning bid was priced over $80 million dollars and included a 200-room boutique hotel, retail, multi-family, concert amphitheater and two parking garages (including a sky bridge connecting the buildings).  I ate lunch thinking to myself “What the heck could these guys be thinking?  If I played any role in that project, I would want to be the bankruptcy attorney.  They will be the only ones that make a profit!”

It was later in the week that I begin to learn the lesson that was set for this assignment.  We were charged with the task of presenting a competitive bid to the owners.  While the winning bid was guilty of having no reality in their proposal, we were just as guilty of providing no vision to the site.  Professor Michael Robinson said, “In a setting like this, it is your fist job to win the bid.  Once you have been granted the job, only then is it your job to work out the details to make it become reality.”

Developers should think outside the preverbal box.  Who wants to see another boring strip mall?  Not me.  We should look for a balance between reality and vision to create a place that people will remember.  As a developer, if you do not see the vision in your project, the odds are that no one else will either.  Finally, to my classmates that won the bid; the presentation was great!  But we both know it was a crazy plan.  However, I learned my lesson!

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About Developing a Developer

I am currently in graduate school in Auburn University's Real Estate Development program. I love real estate. I love everything about it. I love the fact that there are no two properties alike and no two deals alike. In addition to my schoolwork, I love seek out books, articles, blogs, and people that can future my knowledge of this ever changing industry. So here I am! If you know me you will agree that I am not your typical graduate student. If you asked me after graduating from Mississippi State if I thought I would sit in another classroom, write another paper, or take another test I would have answered with "Not in a million years!" If it were not for the MRED program at Auburn I would still be saying that. I want to use this blog to share my story as I go through this program. I expect to make some post closely related to the program itself and others simply about life while I make these changes. I will try not to bore you to death!
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