August 24, 2021
How a developer and a law firm used a Brooklyn development to mentor students interested in commercial real estate
By Leonard A. Robinson –
Savanna, a real estate company, and Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm with an extensive real estate practice, have used a downtown Brooklyn development project as an opportunity to mentor students interested in commercial real estate.
141 Willoughby Street in downtown Brooklyn is currently owned by Savanna who is developing the space into a Class A mixed-use building with office and retail tenants.
Upon completion, the building will span 400,000 square feet and 23 floors with the ground, first, and second floors being entirely devoted to retail and the remaining to office space.
SavCon, a construction company owned by Savanna, is providing general contracting services.
Project Destined, a paid internship program for City University of New York students interested in commercial real estate, has partnered with both firms to grant internship opportunities to students while also giving them a chance to contribute to a future talent pool and boost diversity.
Students in the program are assigned mentors from Savanna and Hunton Andrews Kurth who guide them through the inner workings of a development project from planning, pitching investors, securing financing, construction and leasing.
Students even were able to complete a hard-hat tour of the construction site at 141 Willoughby St.
“141 Willoughby is a tremendous project for these students to be involved in as it’s a Class A building in a neighborhood that doesn’t have many of those,” Laurie Grasso, who leads the global real estate practice at Hunton Andrews Kurth told me. “Not to mention, the knowledge that these students gained was unparalleled: they learned what it costs to buy the building, financing, how to build a leasing plan, and find the ideal tenants.”
Julian Pigao, a former intern and student at John Jay College, told me that he learned more than he expected about commercial real estate, was hired as a program manager for Project Destined and learned he was passionate about construction. “We learned so much and I found it very interesting that I was so fascinated by construction,” Pigao said.
141 Willoughby’s status as one of the few ground up office developments occurring in New York City at the moment has made this the perfect project for students, Cooper Kramer, Savanna’s manager for real estate investments said.
Connecting with the next generation of industry leaders, Kramer told me, made the opportunity worthwhile. “We spent a lot of time with these students, making genuine connections and having genuine collaborations. That genuineness is something that you just can’t pass up.”
“It’s incredible to me that we were able to get two industry leaders, Laurie Grasso and Cooper Kramer, to come together and build this collaboratively,” Project Destined’s co-founder Cedric Bobo told me. “Because of them, I’m confident that many students will find their way into the industry either on the development or legal side.”