Graduate students help shape future of Connecticut development

July 28, 2012

The graduate students touring a luxury townhouse project in Danbury, Connecticut for their residential development course last semester found themselves asking questions of a homebuilder's representative who had once sat in their seats.

In 2004, Matt Matteson (’98, M.P.S. RE ’05) had visited a project site in Port Jarvis, New York as part of his residential development class and worked with a team of students to prepare a marketing and financial analysis for the property. But last semester, Matteson was on the opposite end of the class as 34 graduate students enrolled in CRP 6580 Residential Development, toured a townhome project he is overseeing.

“It was the best class I took at Cornell,” recalls Matteson, a project manager for Toll Brothers Inc., a homebuilder based in Horsham, Pennsylvania. “It really introduced me to the breadth of the business.”

After visiting the development known as Rivington, the students collaborated in six teams to create recommendations for a portion of the site where Toll Brothers has proposed building 230 flat-style condominiums and 35,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space.

Taught by Pike Oliver, a senior lecturer in crp, the course allows students to explore a development site, examine the environmental, engineering and planning factors, and then create a development proposal and financial analysis. “We take residential development from beginning to end,” Oliver says.

In May, three representatives from Toll Brothers visited the Cornell campus to hear the presentations made by the six teams from the class. The students' recommendations included plans for single-family homes, three- to five-story midrise buildings, and senior citizen housing.

One student in the class, Vidhee Garg (M.R.P. ’13), said the project helped her understand the need for the “coordination that has to happen on a development between the developer, planning department, government agencies, architects, contractors, and builders.”

In the past two months, the developer has been reviewing the proposals and is conducting a financial analysis of some of the concepts, Matteson said. What he found particularly useful in the recommendations were the different types of housing the students envisioned for the site and the market support for their proposals.

“It's always fun to hear their thoughts and just get a different perspective on something that we think about day-in and day-out,” Matteson said. “Sometimes we miss things so it's good to have another set of eyes dig into the designs and uncover some stones we didn't see.”

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