Real Estate Immersion in Mexico

The Real Estate Study Tour to Mexico City has come to an end and it was a huge success! We had 7 full days of professional and cultural activities in which the group of 17 MBA students plus 2 representatives of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate learned about the nuances of the local market. Many things happened during the week so it is a good idea to recap!

Day 1: We all arrived at Oaxaca on the night of Saturday March 16th. Our hotel was beautiful and in line with the antique buildings of Oaxaca. After having a good night sleep we all met at breakfast and at 8 am we took a bus to Hierve el Agua. Our guide, Coco, offered us to make a 45 minute hike to see this amazing mineral formations and we all agree to do it. He did not mentioned that we had to go up and down about 400 steps! We enjoyed the beautiful view and headed to Casa Antigua for our first official local lunch. The food was great and brought us back to life. From there we took our bus to a local Palenque (place where Mezcal is made) and Coco explained the whole process of making this Oaxacan drink, and also tasted a little at the end of the tour.On our way back to Oaxaca City we stopped at Santa Maria de Tule where we saw the Tule Tree, the widest tree in the whole world. In the evening, after relaxing for about an hour, we went to the renowned restaurant Criollo (owned by the famous chef Enrique Olvera) and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in a very intimate setting.

Day 2: After a short 20 minute ride, our second day started at Monte Alban, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site. Our local guides explained the story of the ancient Zapotec culture and the latest advancements of the excavation. We were lucky and had a beautiful sunny day there. From there we head back to the city and had lunch at Azuzena Zapoteca, a restaurant owned by a couple that is renowned by their local artisan Alebrijes. After lunch Coco gave us a downtown city tour of Oaxaca were we all had time to but local Mezcal, hand crafts and coffee. Before heading to the airport we stopped by a small town called San Bartolo de Coyotepec that is known for the black clay pottery. From there we went to the airport and flew to CDMX.

Day 3: Our first day in Mexico City couldn’t have started in a better way. Francisco Andragnes, CBS alum, presented his company MetroBuildings, a multifamily developer, and told us all about his career path from CBS until now and gave an overview of the multifamily market in Mexico. We visited one of his development sites in the Polanco neighborhood and went through all the design details of various types of apartments. We had to eat a Lunch Box in the bus to be able to make on time to the next meeting due to the traffic in the city. We met with Thor Urbana, a retail-hospitality developer, where the ¨Jimmies¨ (Jimmy and Jaime, both CBS Alums) presented the company’s strategy and a few of their projects under development (one was an island in the Bahamas). The third meeting was with CBRE. Lyman Daniels, CBRE’s Director in Mexico, presenten in detail the Office, Industrial, Retail and Hospitality markets and trends.

Day 4: Early in the morning, and after a great breakfast in the hotel our bus dropped us in a luxury condo development site (almost ready) in Polanco. There, the team of Marhnos, explained all the analysis behind the project. We walked through a couple of the apartments and we wished we could own one. They were beautiful! after this meeting we met with Alexander Galewicz and Carlos Glender, both alums, and after they presented they career paths and the companies they founded we had a casual lunch where we all had the chance to ask questions and talk about how CBS helped them get to where they are. To close the day we visited the Morgan Stanley in far away neighborhood of Lomas de Santa Fe where Luis Brossier gave us a master class about FIBRAs (Mexican REITS).

Day 5: Today we visited a Tech/Real Estate (PropTech) company called Intelimetrica, which focuses their activities in Big Data and is disrupting the industry in Mexico. Mario, one of the Founders, gave an overview of their business model, strategy and their focus for the next year. After this we had time to mingle with some of Intelimetrica’s employees. Before lunch we headed to Castillo de Chapultepec for a short tour guided by our one and only Don Alfonso. For lunch we headed to Club de Industriales, a social club where real estate professionals gather. There, David O’Donnell (founder of the industrial real estate development company O’Donnell) invited us for lunch and walked us around the industrial real estate industry. To finish the day we visited the Anthropology museum, a must-see in CDMX.

Day 6: On out last company visit day we visited met with FIBRA Dahnos in one of their iconic mixed used projects called Toreo Parque Central. We walked through the mall, office space and event went up to the helipad. after we moved to the architecture office of Sordo Madeleno and we went through a couple of their iconic projects. Some of these where developed with Mexplorer, founded by Diego Baños CBS Alum, who walked us through his venture and future projects. To finish this day we had a late lunch at Entremar where we enjoyed a wonderful local meal and come “Carajillos”.

Day 7: On the last day of the trip, and to close up the intense and interesting week we visited Coyoacán and the central square of CDMX (Zócalo). In Coyoacán we went to Frida Kahlo’s house and Trotsky’s house where our guided gave us cultural context and taught us a bit more about Mexican history. We had a local lunch at La Calaca and then went to the Zócalo and walked through the Templo Mayor, city Cathedral and the government house. In the evening we had our farewell dinner in Casa Virginia. It was the BEST food of the trip and the best way to finish the week.

Valentina Pardo CBS’19

4 Intense Days in CDMX

The Mexico City (CDMX) portion of our trip was intense and a great combination of company visits, site tours and cultural activities.

The first meeting that we had was with Metrobuildings, a local multifamily company that is one of the pioneers in the industry in Latin America. One of the founders, Francisco Andragnes (CBS Alum), walked us through the macro aspects of the industry and gave us a very informative site tour of one of his new projects in the Polanco neighborhood. We learned about what is driving the multifamily industry in Mexico and also about every small detail about the design of the apartments.

Multifamily development site – Metrobuildings

Another amazing meeting was with CBRE Mexico. There we had a great presentation made by Lyman Daniels, Mexico’s Country Manager, where he went through the Office, Retail, Hospitality and Housing industries in detail.

CBRE Real Estate Outlook presentation

In a similar tone, we visited Morgan Stanley, and were able to go through a deep macro and market analysis, with a special focus on FIBRAS (the Mexican equivalent of REITS). We had deep discussion over regulation and the outlook of the real estate market in Mexico. We also discussed the current political shifts with the election of the new Mexican president (AMLO) and the effects of the Trump’s election on the NAFTA agreements.

Both CBRE and Morgan Stanley presentations were extremely useful for all of use to gain a better understanding of the markets and a better base to approach the other company visits.

Morgan Stanley Real Estate Division

Another interesting presentation was the one with O’Donnell, industrial developer in Mexico. David O’Donnell, founder and CEO, invited us for lunch at Club the industriales (business club) were we heard his perspective on the world’s industrial development and how Mexico has great conditions for this specific market. He also gave us some professional advice, and after lunch we walked through the Club and were able to see some paintings from Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Club de Industriales – Business Club (O’Donnell meeting)

The trip has been great so far and all the information and knowledge that we are absorbing is coming together. It has been challenging to be able to stay concentrated but all meeting have been very interesting and have kept all of un engaged.

Valentina Pardo CBS’19

Mexico here we go!

We are about to begin the Mexico Real Estate Study Trip to Oaxaca and Mexico City! As the day come closer the organizing team, composed by 5 CBS students, goes through the last details to make the experience as complete and enriching as possible.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Oaxaca City Center

The trip will start with 2 full days in Oaxaca. This is a city in central Mexico that is mostly known for its colonial buildings, many of which are made from green volcanic stone, and the large variety of indigenous cultures. The food in Oaxaca is well known all around Mexico and some even say is the best of the country. During our time there we will explore the city center and its cathedrals, go to the local textile and crafts markets and try a few of the most renown restaurants in town.

The group will also explore the areas and towns around the city. we will visit Hierve el Agua to relax in the fresh water springs, and to Monte Albán to learn more about one of the earliest civil-ceremonial centers of the Zapotec cultures (500 BC). We will also learn about the process of distilling agave and do some Mezcal tasting before heading to the airport to Mexico City.

Reforma Avenue, Mexico City

The four days in Mexico City will be hectic, not only because of the huge traffic problem the city has, but because we will visit 11 companies and 3 projects/construction sites. Even though the trip is focused in Real Estate, the range of companies is broad in terms of focus. We will talk with Metrobuildings (multifamily developer), Thor Urbana (retail and hospitality developer), CBRE (research), Marhnos (for sale residential development), Morgan Stanley (IB), Intelimétrica (RE Big Data, proptech, entrepreneurship), O’Donnell (industrial development), Dahnos (REIT, mixed use developer) and Sordo Madeleno (mixed use developer). Site visits will include a for-sale luxury condos, a multifamily construction site and Toreo Parque Central, an iconic mix use project just outside the city limits.

We will also use our time there to explore the rich culture and history of the city. We will do a day tour of the city center (Zócalo), visit the Anthropology Museum, walk around the Chapultepec Castle, explore the neighborhood of Coyoacán and learn more about Frida Kahlo in the museum that used to be her house.

Stay tuned for more update during the trip!

Valentina Pardo CBS’19

Singapore, China & Hong Kong: the journey is upon us!

When I think of Singapore, skyscrapers and images of technological modernity immediately come to mind. I would be remiss by neglecting to mention the image of The Jetsons – a once popular American cartoon – that also comes to mind for me when this hyper-developed nation is mentioned. The trip will formally begin in two days, when 40 Columbia Business School students and two faculty members from the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate depart for a study tour of Singapore and the Pearl River Delta region of China. The fortunate portion of our group that hasn’t endured an endless stream of final exams has already departed, visiting the beaches of the Far East before heading to Singapore.

Our first day will be filled with cultural visits: a visit to the Gardens by the Bay (pictured here), Chinatown and Little India. A riverboat tour and dinner at one of the most notable seafood restaurants will follow.

120607010620-gardens-bay-panoramic-horizontal-large-galleryWe’ll spend the next two days meeting with leaders in the real estate industry: multinational companies such as Blackstone Real Estate Partners, the largest real estate private equity company in the world, and Capitaland in addition to strong players in the regional market such as GIC. We’ll end our Singapore experience with an alumni reception at Spago.

Guangzhou, nicknamed the City of Flowers in southern China, is our first stop in the Pearl River Delta region. This area is considered the birthplace of the ancient maritime Silk Road, now used as a major trading and transportation hub.  This major city is an important commercial center in China and a focus for real estate development and investment.

The group will also explore Shenzhen – another major commercial center in the Pearl River Delta. Meetings with Vanke, Jones Lang LaSalle, Swire Properties, Fosun and site visits of the Ping An Finance Center and the Qianhai project await.

The trip will end with a day to explore Hong Kong before returning to New York City. I can’t wait for the adventure that lies ahead. I am, however, hoping to sleep for the duration of the 21-hour flight there!

Nicole Atoyan ’17


Final Reflections on China

It’s been over a week since we arrived in the U.S., exhausted and rumpled from a 15-hour flight from Hong Kong. Anyone else craving dumplings yet?

The trip was well worth the jet lag. Here are some of the highlights now that we’ve all had time to reflect:

1)      The company visits: Our organizers really went above and beyond here. Not only did we get a glimpse of what it’s like to work in what b-school students consider some of the most coveted jobs in the world, we heard the perspective of local developers, too. I actually found our visits with Swire, Hongkong Land and SOHO China the most interesting. It helped that we met with some pretty high level people there.

2)      The food! Just when I thought I had my fill, there was something even more delicious to consume.  Ok, maybe we weren’t all fans of the stinky tofu (it really does stink) or the scorpions on a stick that you could buy in a street market. But I don’t mind the idea of eating dumplings for breakfast.

3)      The sights!! Bonus points to our organizers here. We hit all the major ones on my list, plus stuff that was off my radar. The Great Wall was pretty incredible—and thankfully, we did not visit at the same time as Michelle Obama, which would have surely added to the traffic on the way there. And I for one was impressed with that Giant Buddha, even though it was erected all the way back in 1993.

Finally 4) The group. It was a pleasure getting know everyone’s backgrounds and their future plans. I was impressed by the questions that were asked during our company meetings. The students on this trip truly eat, sleep and breathe real estate.   Image

Overall, I feel lucky to have been a part of this while at Columbia. Big shout out to Karl, Maria, Scott and Bria for making it happen!

-Anjali Athavaley ‘14


Built-Up Beijing

It may be just a few hours away by plane, but Beijing feels vastly different from Hong Kong. I can’t read the street signs and just ate pigeon off a stick in a market. Now THIS is China!

Anyone hungry for starfish?
Anyone hungry for starfish?

We’ve been incredibly lucky to enjoy some sunny, clear days here. The unexpected weather has made our site visits even better.

On Thursday, the folks at Swire Properties gave us a tour of their outdoor mall Taikoo Li, located in the Chaoyang district of Beijing. The complex consists of more than a million square feet of retail. The South side has stores that drive foot traffic, like Uniqlo, while the North side is all high-end retailers—think Miu Miu and Emporio Armani.

On the North side, it seemed like retailers had taken huge amounts of space for the amount of foot traffic they were getting. That afternoon, there were few shoppers in sight. Swire said that while shoppers might not be visible on the streets, celebrities who discreetly took elevators stopped by on occasion. In our meeting, Swire added that retailers mainly wanted a presence in Beijing and may start to think more about productivity per square foot in the future.

Our meeting with Soho China was equally fascinating. The developer says its niche is in prime office properties in Beijing and Shanghai. The company’s trendy offices—complete with open spaces and ping pong tables–seemed typical of a startup in Soho, New York.

The design and construction of the office complex we saw, however, was quite different from buildings in the U.S. Check out photos of the Galaxy below.

The building, designed by Zaha Haidid Architects
The building, designed by Zaha Haidid Architects

A close-up shot of the construction at Galaxy.
A close-up shot of the construction at Galaxy.

The trip to the Galaxy was our final company visit. That meant it was time for an acrobat show, the Great Wall and more dumplings.

The Great Wall!!
The Great Wall!!

This will be my final post before heading back to the U.S. I’m so thrilled I was able to experience this country through the lens of real estate. Seems like there is no better time to do it – I’ve lost count of the number of cranes and construction sites I’ve seen here.

See you all back in Uris and have a safe flight, everyone!

Anjali Athavaley ‘14