Columbia University

U3A has served as Columbia University’s real estate consultant since 1999, assisting the University with a wide variety of real estate matters at both Columbia’s main campus in Morningside Heights and its Medical Center in Washington Heights. These include portfolio analyses, property acquisitions and leases, planning and development projects, and transaction agreements. In addition, U3A has served Columbia as project manager and “staff extension” in the planning and development of the University’s new Manhattanville campus.

Real Estate Staff Extension

U3A, and its predecessor firm, K. Backus & Associates, has served since 1999 as real estate development consultant and “staff extension” to Columbia, working on a variety of significant planning and development projects.  We are currently working on a variety of projects related to student housing and helping Columbia to benchmark its peers with regard to management practices for gifts of real estate.

Manhattanville Campus Planning and Real Estate Transactions

U3A served as project manager and advisor during the planning phase of Columbia’s new 17-acre campus in the Manhattanville section of West Harlem. This massive undertaking—which involved land assemblage, rezoning, and the development of millions of square feet of academic space and new infrastructure—will accommodate the University’s growth for the next 50 years. As project manager during the planning phase, U3A interfaced between University stakeholders and a team of design consultants led by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Over a 4-year period, U3A managed the project schedule, budget, and contracts, and served as liaison to the City and State agencies overseeing the project.

For seven years through 2013, a U3A staff member was based at Columbia to assist the University in assembling a majority of the 70 separate parcels comprising the Manhattanville Campus.  Functioning as staff extension to the Real Estate Department, U3A assisted Columbia with a variety of real estate matters, including property acquisitions, business relocations, and leases.

Morningside Heights Ground Lease Transactions

Serving as project manager and financial analyst to Columbia, U3A represented the University through a multi-year competitive selection process for two development sites at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, culminating in the negotiation of an option agreement for a 150-year ground lease.  The sites provided more than 300,000 square feet of development capacity adjacent to Columbia’s Morningside campus.  U3A also helped Columbia negotiate an agreement with Union Theological Seminary to gain access to new facilities and stewardship of the largest collection of religious books outside the Vatican.

Hotel Developer Solicitation

Columbia University was approached by a developer proposing to develop a University affiliated hotel and retail on a prominent University-owned site. U3A reviewed zoning and performed a financial analysis on the project to ascertain its viability under a set of various assumptions regarding ADR and occupancy and determined the amount of University-oriented academic and of space that could be supported by residual ground rent.