CEO & Co-Founder, Philadelphia Office
Affiliations & Achievements
As an immigrant, first as a Lebanese citizen in Egypt and later as an Arab American, Omar thrives in the spaces that bridge across communities and cultures. He founded U3 Ventures LLC, a predecessor of today’s firm, in 2006 with the belief that anchor institutions hold the key to sustainable community and economic development for their cities. The name U3 reflects the “third space” between universities and their urban settings – the focus of U3’s work. Omar is the CEO of U3 Advisors and leads a diverse team of passionate professionals with backgrounds in real estate, urban design, planning, and economics, to help communities thrive with Anchors at their heart. Omar’s belief (which is translated into every aspect of U3 Advisors work) is that a successful consulting practice should not be measured by the volume of analysis or recommendation reports, but instead by the real impact on people’s lives.
Omar’s work engages university presidents and trustees, philanthropic leaders, government officials, and community organizations to unlock higher education, healthcare, and other non-profit institutions in order to transform themselves and their communities. Since 2006, Omar has overseen U3’s efforts to regenerate two neighborhoods in Detroit – Midtown and the McNichols Corridor; the Memphis Medical District; College Park, Maryland (the home of Maryland’s flagship institution the University of Maryland), and Chicago’s Southside, home to the University of Chicago.
Prior to forming U3, Omar was the Senior Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate at the University of Pennsylvania from 1996 to 2006. At Penn, Omar led the creation of a vibrant and engaging built environment both on and off campus in which students, faculty, and staff could learn, live, work, and play and were the community is engaged and included. Under his management, Penn embarked on more than $2.0 billion in new construction and $700 million of real estate development projects – which transformed the campus and the surrounding community. During his tenure, Penn received multiple AIA and Business Week awards.
Omar came to Penn from Coopers and Lybrand, where he led a team of consultants providing real estate, facilities, operation and capital programs expertise. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Cairo University, his Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California, and his MBA from New York University’s Leonard Stern School of Business. Omar is a founding member of ULI’s University Development and Innovation Council. He and his team were nationally recognized in 2003 when the University of Pennsylvania received the prestigious ULI Global Award of Excellence, a first for a university, and again in 2013 for Midtown Detroit Inc. Omar’s writing has been published in national publications and he is a frequent public speaker on the topic of anchor institutions, community and economic development.
Omar serves on the Advisory Council of the Community Design Collaborative and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Zoo. He loves international travel and cuisine and is an avid soccer fan and player.