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Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
Old Lion (original sin)
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Date Posted: 15:38:05 02/06/17 Mon
In reply to: An Observer 's message, "Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts" on 14:36:46 02/06/17 Mon

In the late 1890s the trustees had the option to buy all of the land west of Broadway between 120th and 110th, down to the Hudson River. They declined on the ground that it was unnecessary and outside the footprint of the magnificent McKim, Meade and White footprint for the campus.

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[> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
An Observer
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Date Posted: 15:47:55 02/06/17 Mon

You know, we all have hundreds and thousands of important decisions to make over the course of a lifetime. You don't have to make all of them correctly. You don't even need to bat over .500.

You just need to make a few of the most important ones correctly and you hope that you don't make any horribly. That was a horrible decision.

If you are an individual, you make decisions for the next twenty or thirty or forty years. If you are a member of a university board of trustees, you've got to make decisions for the next century or longer.

I would say that, financially, this call is worse than the $12-13 billion that Harvard's endowment managers have underachieved over the past decade. How much is that Morningside Heights land worth today? $50 billion? $100 billion?

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[> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
florida lion
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Date Posted: 19:06:53 02/06/17 Mon

Was Sovern involved in Peter Minuit's purchase? Seriously, Morningside Heights
and Baker Field real estate have nothing to do with one another. They are miles apart. I understand CU sold 4 or so acres of Baker Field land (in exchange for a couple of million and an acre nearby) for some NYC municipal purposes. But, there is no way that parcel is currently worth $50 billion plus. That said, the lack of this land is likely the reason for the new athletic bubble. And I further agree that universities should look at the very long term and be very reluctant to sell off land, certainly in NYC.

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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
An Observer
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Date Posted: 19:51:52 02/06/17 Mon

So it sounds like there was some horse-trading with a NYC municipal decision-making entity regarding the Baker Field parcel. That's what I was guessing.

No, the $50 billion or $100 billion numbers I tossed out referred to Columbia's decision in the 1890's not to buy the land west of Broadway between 110th and 120th down to the Hudson. What do you think that's worth? Think about the multi-billion numbers associated with the Hudson Yards and then compare their relative sizes.

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[> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
florida lion
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Date Posted: 20:27:50 02/06/17 Mon

Sorry, I didn't understand that you were referring to the land west of the current CU campus. This land is, obviously, worth much, much more than the Baker Field parcel. But we're going back to the 19th century--when we purchased Louisiana for $15m. and Alaska for $7m. So any real estate bought then seems like a bargain today. I can't say if CU would have been better off owning all that land during the last 100 years given all the changes in the city, politics and the economy. By the same measure, Penn could likely own a lot of Philadelphia and Harvard most of Cambridge. As it is, they are all significant landowners, as Brown is in Providence.

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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
An Observer
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Date Posted: 21:18:22 02/06/17 Mon

Yes, I'm sure that real estate in New York City did not look like a great investment in the early 1990's during the height of the crack epidemic -- if your investment horizon is that of an individual. But if you're a university, you're really betting on New York City over the next century and, either way, Columbia is "all in" on that bet, whether in 1890 or 1990. Columbia should have bought the land.

I know a guy whose brownstone in one of the best parts of Brooklyn was sold to him by the city in the early 1990's for a dollar, with the stipulation that he would live in it. He's still there, renting out each of the units except the one he lives in. I'm guessing that the brownstone is worth $5 million or so, maybe $8 million on the high side. What's the IRR on one dollar?

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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts/Columbia leadership


Author:
Leonidas (Sovern and Cole)
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Date Posted: 00:46:17 02/07/17 Tue

Sovern was president from 1980 to 1993. He took the College co-ed when Barnard wouldn't merge, and with the opening of Shapiro Hall in 1987 he made Columbia College fully residential for all four years for the first time in history, a huge achievement given NY real estate constraints and permitting Columbia to compete for the best students nationally and internationally. Until then Columbia denied housing to 15% or more of the first year class and to most transfer students, which was a huge competitive disadvantage.

Cole was provost from 1989 to 2003 and lead the Enlargement and Enhancement initiative that grew the College and Engineering to their present size. He recognized that Columbia could not be a first rank university without a first rank undergraduate college, and he put together and led the plan that achieved that goal. Thanks to this initiative, Lerner Hall was opened in 1999 and Broadway Hall in 2000, among other successes.

Selling off the land at Baker Field was a mistake as was selling off the Columbia Club in midtown, but only in retrospect. And as mistakes they pale in comparison to what Sovern and Cole accomplished for Columbia College, which was a complete reversal in its fortunes that would not have been possible for small single-sex school with insufficient housing.

In the 47 years since 1970, the nadir for Columbia, we have benefited from the best and most consistent leadership in the Ivy League. The presidents have been extremely long serving and have been very successful expanding Columbia's footprint and improving the campus and neighborhood environment. While Cole always struck me as a bit remote for a leader, his Columbia College legacy is exceptional. And Austin Quigley and James Valentini, who have led the College for 19 of the last 22 years, have also been outstanding institution builders. Let's count our blessings.

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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts/Columbia leadership


Author:
Old Lion (athletics)
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Date Posted: 09:54:46 02/07/17 Tue

My comments about Sovern/Cole were limited to their disastrous stewardship of our athletics programs. The nadir for the university was 1967; but one might say that it was a culmination of inept and incompetent leadership which began in the later years of the Butler administration and was carried through by Grayson Kirk. To me the biggest mistakes athletically were not building the gym in 1963, when it would have been easily accomplished, and in selling off parcels of Baker Field. The latter mistake, of course, is the sole responsibility of Sovern/Cole.

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[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Subject: Re: Columbia practice bubble debuts


Author:
florida lion
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Date Posted: 13:55:23 02/07/17 Tue

My comments yesterday were a bit confused as I thought we were just talking about Baker Field. Carelessly, I had overlooked Old Lion's post about the 1890's and CU's chance to pick up all the land to the west of the current campus. It'd
be interesting to know what was offered and for how much. If no one has a quick answer, I'll do some research.

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