By Cindy Breme

The nervous energy at Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was palpable as three teams of Lafayette students with career aspirations in the real estate industry converged to present their project analyses at Lafayette’s fifth annual Real Estate Case Competition. This year’s competition, held Wednesday, May 3, featured an analysis of The Marquis, a real-life 274-unit mixed-use development in Easton.

After last year’s competition was held virtually due to COVID-19, this year’s organizers were excited to bring the engaging event back in person. Unique to Lafayette, the annual event highlights the competitors’ mastery of real estate valuation and returns, skills that will become valuable for the students both professionally and personally. The competition also helps students gain experience presenting to industry leaders, who judge them on their investment analysis, approach to problem-solving, and presentation skills. Ultimately, each team hopes to present the most compelling case to the judges that its recommendations should be followed. 

Three teams competed, consisting of students enrolled in Prof. Rex Ahene‘s real estate seminar class as well as students who attended the Real Estate Seminar Series held at the Dyer Center over the past year, which introduced students to industry leaders and methods. The competition was open to all students, who were provided with training in order to be best prepared. 

Rex Ahene did a tremendous job coaching all of the student teams, spending countless hours outside of class time to help them formulate their analyses and refine their pitches,” says Tobias Rossmann, associate professor of mechanical engineering and Dyer Center interim director.

This year, students had two weeks to prepare an analysis of the economic feasibility of constructing The Marquis, a development project that will replace an existing parking garage occupying the site on Pine Street. Presenting at this year’s competition were  Team Blue Horizon (Shirel Salinas ’24, Sofia Ruggiero ’26, and Jalalle Nourenie ’24); Team Axis-3 Consulting (Benjamin Fisher ’25, Diego Villalpando ’25, and Viktor Ivelja ’23); and Team Ground Up, LLC (Zayn Daniels ’23, Kwame Adu-Kyei ’24, and Safina Davis ’26). The pressure was high, as each team had only 15 minutes to make its argument, followed by a rigorous Q&A from a panel of judges, each of whom have personal connections to the College: William Felton P’23Dan Huffenus ’86, Robert DiLorezno, director of planning and construction at City Center, and Jennifer Unterberger ’95. 

Three students hold a large check from the Dyer Center for $1500.While each of the three teams argued in favor of moving forward with The Marquis, it was Team Ground Up, LLC that made the most convincing case, walking away with a $1,500 prize and bragging rights. Daniels of Ground Up expressed his gratitude for the opportunity. “As a group, we are incredibly grateful for the guidance Dr. Ahene, Jolene Cardassi, and the coaches from City Center Allentown provided us with. We are not only thrilled about the result, but more importantly, the skills we were able to sharpen throughout the process. This was a phenomenal experience, and we greatly encourage ALL students to maximize the first-class resources available at the Dyer Center.” 

The judges recognized the outstanding effort of all the competitors. Unterberger shared, “It was a pleasure having the opportunity to come back to Lafayette and judge the Dyer Real Estate Competition. All three presentations were well done, and the nine students all did a great job. I was impressed by each student’s poise in presenting this complicated case study. We chose Ground Up LLC as the winner because their presentation was thorough and extremely well presented. The group was well prepared and gave confident responses to all questions.”

Wherever these accomplished students land after graduation, there is no doubt the experience afforded to them by Lafayette will help them build an impactful career in the real estate industry.  


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