About Us

U3 Advisors is nationally-recognized consulting practice that provides real estate and economic development solutions to the institutions that anchor our communities. We are proud to serve as development managers, advisors, and strategists to a wide and diverse range of mission-driven clients, including:

  • Universities and colleges
  • Medical centers
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Foundations
  • Local governments
  • Developers and businesses pursuing public-private partnerships

With professional backgrounds in real estate development, economic development, university administration, and planning, we bring an inherent understanding of the needs, missions, and cultures of our clients. We are uniquely positioned to help our clients leverage their assets, implement complex real estate projects and deploy existing demand in support of institutional and community goals.

U3 Advisors was formed through the merger of U3 Ventures and K. Backus & Associates, two real estate and economic development consulting firms with a long and successful histories assisting universities, non-profit organizations and other anchor institutions.

The Team

Firm History

U3 Advisors is the result of the January 2014 merger of U3 Ventures, LLC and K Backus & Associates, Inc. (KBA), two real estate and economic development consulting firms with a long and successful history assisting universities, non-profit organizations and other anchor institutions.

KBA was established in New York City in 1997 with a core focus on providing project management services and expert real estate advice to academic and non-profit clients – including Columbia, Princeton, Cornell and the YMCA of Greater New York - during the planning and preconstruction phases of complex development projects. In addition, KBA worked with private developers and businesses engaged in P3 projects. Before founding KBA, principal Karen Backus worked in senior positions at the New York City Economic Development Corporation and in private development.

U3 Ventures was founded in Philadelphia in 2006 by Omar Blaik, a former Senior Vice President at the University of Pennsylvania, with the belief that anchor institutions hold the key to sustainable community and economic development. U3 Ventures established its anchor strategy practice in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia and quickly expanded across the country, working with philanthropic and anchor institutions to develop and implement place-based economic development strategies. Strategies implemented by U3 Ventures have contributed to the resurgence of Midtown Detroit, College Park, Maryland, and University City in Philadelphia.

Press

"Great cities are not made of few large projects but of many unique smaller projects. We believe Milkboy will be just that." MilkBoy ArtHouse, a collaboration between MilkBoy, a Philadelphia-based music and entertainment company, and the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will feature multiple bars, restaurant areas with seating and two stages for artists to perform. U3A worked with the various university and community stakeholders to help bring MilkBoy to College Park. Since 2009, U3 Advisors has served the University of Maryland in College Park, advising on a variety of real estate and place-based economic development initiatives. 

The Baltimore Sun reports on U3A's work with Towson University to deepen connections between the University's campus and the surrounding community.

“What we’re trying to do is really strengthen the core of the city—Downtown, the Medical District, and the areas around it. ” U3 Advisors Vice President Alex Feldman featured in High Grounds profile of the winners of the Operation Opportunity Challenge. The Operation Opportunity Challenge was presented by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, U3 Advisors and the EPIcenter. The competition kicked off in late October 2016; winners were announced by mid-December.

Since 2014, U3 Advisors has been working closely with local partners to launch a series of initiatives aimed at revitalizing the Memphis Medical District. Read more about U3 Advisors' work in the Medical District here

Cornell EEC

Cornell Tech released new details regarding its hotel on Cornell's Roosevelt Island campus. The Graduate Roosevelt Island, developed by AJ Capital Partners as part of their Graduate portfolio of boutique hotels, will offer 196 rooms, as well as a full-service restaurant, rooftop bar, and 5,200 square feet of “flexible meeting and event facilities.” Snøhetta will design the hotel.

U3A served as consultant to Cornell in the University’s successful quest to win the Bloomberg administration’s competition to attract a world-class applied sciences and engineering campus to New York City, and continues to serve as real estate advisor in implementing the 2 million square foot campus. 

MedHaul and Sparco Projectpedia were the winning ideas from the recent Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) Operation Opportunity business plan competition, and the entrepreneurs behind the concepts will now work with EPIcenter to cultivate them into successful ventures. The MMDC, U3 Advisors, and EPIcenter partnered on the competition.

The Board of Directors of the Hatfield City Improvement District (CID) launched the Hatfield Campus Village on February 28, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. The Hatfield Campus is part of the University of Pretoria (UP) system, a major stakeholder in the area. U3A , with the support of the Kresge Foundation, spent a week at the University of Pretoria in Fall 2016 to advise on strategies to strengthen the precinct around the UP Hatfield campus. Following this visit, U3A coordinated and hosted meetings for UP leadership with several U.S. foundations and university leaders during the Summer 2016. 

Cornell Tech presented its plans for its Verizon Executive Education Center and Hotel at its Roosevelt Island campus to Community Board 8 in November 2016, unveiling the first renderings for the buildings. The buildings are now awaiting approval from the city’s Public Design Commission. U3A serves as the University’s real estate advisor, helping to shepherd Cornell Tech successfully through all phases of the campus development process.  Read more here

U3A Managing Director, Todd Stern, recently presented U3A's initial findings from it's nine-month engagement with the Cornell University's Division of Student and Campus Life to "draw up a master plan to reassess on-campus housing for the next decade" at an on-campus student housing forum.  Read more about U3A's engagement with Cornell's Division of Campus Life here

WREG News Channel 3 Memphis interviewed Leslie Smith, President of the Entrepreneurship-Powered Innovation Center (EPIcenter), in advance of the October 26th kickoff of the "Operation Opportunity" initiative. The initiatve will give incentives to small, locally owned businesses to develop purchasing relationships with the big hospitals and universities in the Memphis Medical District. View the full interview here
 
U3 Advisors has been in engaged in the Memphis Medical District since 2014, in coordination with local partners such as EPIcenter, assisting with the design and implementation of a strategic Anchor Strategy, including the "Operation Opportunity" initiative. Read more about U3A's engagement in Memphis here
“This is really a story about what can happen when you think about the collective demands of the institutions in the area.” The Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) announced a “Buy Local” business plan competition in advance of the October 26th kickoff of the “Operation Opportunity” initiative, which will give incentives to small, locally owned businesses to develop purchasing relationships with the big hospitals and universities in the district. U3A Vice President Alex Feldman, along witth MMDC President Tommy Pacello, were on hand for the announcement.
 
U3 Advisors has been in engaged in the Memphis Medical District since 2014, assisting with the design and implementation of a strategic Anchor Strategy. Read more about U3A's engagement in Memphis here
UMD_College Park_Rendering

The Washington Business Journal reports on the latest developments in the revisioning of College Park, Maryland. The University of Maryland selected the Bozzuto Group and Willard Retail Group, in partnership with the University of Maryland Foundation, to develop a $110 million mixed-use site along U.S. Route 1. Plans for the site include a 300-unit luxury apartment building with more than 100,000 square feet of ground-floor retail on the 4.5-acre site. 

harlem baptist temple church

Plans have been filed to develop an 11-story apartment building on the Harlem Baptist Temple Church’s property at 20 West 116th Street in Harlem, NY. The church would return to the site, which was partially demolished in 2009, taking up 5,800 square feet in the cellar and first floors of the new development. Twenty-eight apartments would be stacked on top, spread across 29,540 square feet of residential space. U3 Advisors has served as Harlem Baptist Temple Church's Development Advisor since 2014.

Read about U3 Advisors' latest engagement with Cornell University in The Cornell Daily Sun.   U3A is working with the University's Division of Student and Campus Life to "draw up a master plan to reassess on-campus housing for the next decade."  

Cornell University's Division of Student and Campus Life has engaged U3 Advisors to conduct a nine-month housing master plan process for the Ithaca campus.  Read the Cornell Chronicle's article regarding this engagement here. U3A has served as the University’s real estate advisor for its planned 2 million square-foot applied sciences and engineering campus – Cornell Tech – since 2011. In addition, U3A has served as real estate advisor for the University's East Hill Village project since 2013. 

The newly established Medical District Collaborative (MDC), a nonprofit entity made up of stakeholders and executives in the Memphis Medical District, held its inaugural board meeting on February 1, 2016. U3A’s representative in Memphis, Tommy Pacello, was named the President of MDC. The MDC has plans for series of changes in the in the District beginning in May 2016, including streetscaping and public arts projects. The MDC anticipates that real estate development and parking management projects will be undertaken in the future. Click here for the latest coverage in the Memphis Daily News. 

U3 Advisors was hired by the District’s anchor institutions in summer 2014 to design and implement as anchor strategy in the area in an effort to focus its economic resources for the benefit of the entire district.  U3A has designed and implemented similar anchor strategies in Philadelphia and Midtown Detroit. 

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) completed the sale of a parcel on their Morningside Heights campus to developer Savanna. the proceeds will go towards creating a new academic center and residence hall on JTS's campus. The academic center will include a new library (including a new home for JTS's renowned collection of rare books and scrolls), classrooms, and event space. Read more about U3A's engagement with JTS here.

U3 Advisors' Omar Blaik presents recommendations for a Binational University between a U.S. university and Mexican university to Chula Vista City Council.

On January 27, 2016, U3 Advisors CEO Omar Blaik and Vice President Alex Feldman presented U3A's final report and recommendations to Chula Vista City Council for a Binational University between a U.S. university and a Mexican university. The City Council unanimously accepted U3A's report and recommendations. 

A community discussion sponsored by Live6

"The Live6 Initiative is adapting lessons learned from the redevelopment of Midtown, including an anchor institution strategy, while paying close attention to residents and a unique neighborhood context." Lauren Hood, Director of the Live6 initative, is featured in the latest edition of Model D, providing on update the latest developments in revitalizing from Northwestern Detroit.  Read the article here.

The Detroit Free Press reports on the initial results of a five year effort to encourage people to move into areas in and around Detroit's MidtownU3 Advisors has been engaged in the district for the past five years, assisting philanthropic and anchor partners with the coordination, integration, and leveraging of multiple initiatives in the region. Read more about U3 Advisors' engagement in Midtown Detroit here

Leading community partners in Detroit announced this week the formation of the Live6 Alliance.  The Alliance will coordinate and promote the revitalization efforts along the Livernois Avenue and McNichols Road commercial corridor in Northwest Detroit. Funders have committed a total of $700,000 over two years to facilitate the Live6 Alliance’s work.  U3 Advisors' Co-CEO Omar Blaik, Vice President George Smith, and Lauren Hood - Acting Director of Live6 - were on hand for the announcement.  Read the full article here .

U3 Advisors is highlighted in the Memphis Daily News' latest report on the Memphis Medical Center's development of a long-term anchor strategy for the Memphis Medical District, located in the center of metropolitan Memphis, Tennessee. Read the full article here .

 (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)`

The latest edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal profiles U3 Advisors' work in support of the Memphis Medical Center's anchor strategy. 

Carlsbad City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to enter an exclusivity agreement with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), one of 12 institutions that had indicated interest in opening a satellite campus in the city. U3 Advisors Vice President Steven Jacobs testified before the council in advance of its vote.  Read the full articile here .

Since 2013, U3A has provided consultant services to the City of Carlsbad as part of its efforts to attract higher education institutions to serve the needs of companies in its fast growing information technology and life sciences sectors.  

Cornell University, along with New York City leaders and members of the University's development and project teams, celebrated this week the groundbreaking of Cornell Tech’s campus on Roosevelt Island and announced a $100 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies to fund construction of the campus. The innovative new campus opens summer 2017. U3 Advisors was on hand to join in the celebration.

U3 Advisors' Co-CEO Omar Blaik speaks with the Diamondback about the latest developments in U3A's collabration with the University of Maryland in College Park. Read more about the progress made towards achieving "the Greater College Park vision" here.

U3 Advisors' Co-CEO, Omar Blaik, is quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education's latest article about the challenges for university anchor strategies in struggling towns and cities. Read the full article here.

The University of Maryland is acquiring real estate along Route 1 in College Park, pushing to create a lively main street that better connects its flagship campus with the town and provides an atmosphere on par with the school’s academics. Read more of about U3 Advisors' collabration with the University on this project here.

The Barking Dog space, still in the pre-developmental phase, would be part of a public-private partnership with the University of Maryland and the Philadelphia music venue MilkBoy.

In town-gown relations, as in real estate, three factors matter most: location, location and - you guessed it - location. Nowhere is that more evident than in the latest arguments over proposals to bring University of Massachusetts students and year-round Amherst residents out of their separate spheres and into closer proximity downtown. 

U3 Advisors' Co-CEO Omar Blaik moderated a panel on University and Community Engagement as part of the Next City City Sessions Series. 

U3 Advisors engages members of the University of Maryland and civic leaders in College Park to envision the city as a top 20 college town by 2020. 

U3 Advisors' Co-CEO discusses the proposed 4-star hotel at the University of Maryland College Park in the Washington Post. 

U3 Advisors' Vice Presidents George Smith and Steve Jacobs discuss the potential for private development at UMass Amherst. 

The July 2014 issue of ULI Magazine highlights Midtown Detroit - which won the ULI Global Award for Excellence in November 2013. 

 

Midtown Detroit Inc. wins the country's most prestigious real estate award. 

John Bare, Vice President of the Arthur M. Blank Foundation, writes about the anchor strategy deployed to revitilize Midtown Detroit 

Omar Blaik discusses how urban universities can engage with their surroundings in the Chronicle of Higher Education.