Liam McLaughlin was already dabbling in residential real estate when he was invited to join the Real Estate Finance Academy at the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration.
McLaughlin (Sophomore – Finance) runs his own Airbnb property management business and is the outgoing president of the school’s Real Estate Association student group.
“Needless to say, when I saw an opportunity to learn more, I was not going to pass it up,” McLaughlin says.
He was one of more than a dozen students who participated in the Pitt Business Real Estate Finance Academy this past semester. The program is offered in partnership with the Pittsburgh office of JLL, a global real estate services firm with nearly $7 billion in annual revenues. All business majors are eligible to apply to the program.
Every session took place at JLL Center at Tower Two-Sixty in downtown Pittsburgh. The JLL management team and other guest speakers led discussions on contracts and analysis, risk management, financial objectives, underwriting, and project development.
“The JLL Pittsburgh office has grown from three people in 1995 to over 450 people in the office today,” says JC Pelusi, the market director for JLL’s Great Lakes region. “The ability to work with young talent and watch them grow and turn into professionals is something I really enjoy. An extension of that is working with students in the business school.”
Pelusi is a former Pitt football player. He earned both his bachelor’s degree in economics and communications and his MBA from Pitt.
Each year, JLL has hired at least one student from the academy for an internship. Additionally, JLL hires an average of three to five students each year from Pitt for internships.
“We’re a growing company and this is a good way to meet talented students,” Pelusi says.
The Real Estate Finance Academy produces memorable sessions for students. For example, this past March the speaker was Lucas Piatt, the president and chief operating officer of Millcraft Investments. He discussed the perseverance it takes as a developer to bring one’s grand vision to life. Working with zoning officials, dealing with contractors, and securing enough capital from multiple funding streams are among the challenges that can sink a project.
Millcraft was responsible for the Southpointe development in Washington County and several downtown projects including Piatt Place and JLL Center.
The firm is currently moving forward with its most ambitious project yet: Esplanade, a proposed mixed-use development on 15 riverfront acres on the Ohio River in Pittsburgh’s North Side. The project would feature office space, apartments and condominiums, a hotel, a commercial aquarium, and a marina. The main attractions would be a giant crystal lagoon that would provide pool-side recreation in the summer and an outdoor skating rink in the winter and also a large Ferris wheel with views of the Golden Triangle.
“Taking an idea and turning it into a reality has great complexity,” Piatt told the students in the session.
Jacob Vogel (Junior – Marketing) says the session with Piatt was his favorite. He is interested in working in commercial real estate, perhaps for a firm like JLL. The academy provided him many lessons that he can use going forward, he says.
“The entire program helped me learn what I will be doing, good ways of doing it, corporate expectations, and more. It just gave me great exposure to the industry,” Vogel says.
The Pitt Business Real Estate Finance Academy is typically offered in the spring term, and sign-ups occur in the fall term. To learn more or to be added to a waiting list for the next session, please contact Becky Rhoades, Career Development Program Manager, at email@example.com.