real estate

Plan II and economics junior Richie Gill founded Mr. West Campus, a real state agency geared toward helping students find housing near campus. Mr. West Campus is Gill’s second business; he started an online advertising company in high school and sold it after two years.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

By age 17, Richie Gill, Plan II and economics junior, knew he did not want to work under a boss for the rest of his life.

So while still in high school, Gill earned his real estate license and started an online advertising business. After successfully running the business for two years, he sold it to improve his college GPA, but could not resist the urge to run his own business and earn money once again.

Gill started Mr. West Campus, a real estate agency for students looking to live close to campus in late 2010.

“My parents always motivated me to make money,” Gill said. “I had a job at Walgreens and I just said ‘Screw this. I’m not going to listen to my boss anymore. I want to do what I want. I don’t want to make only $7 an hour selling cigarettes all day,’ and I didn’t want to wait six years to have a good job, so I started my own business.”

Mr. West Campus now has seven employees, helps hundreds of students find apartments every year and includes, which focuses on helping students sub-lease. The service provided is free for students because Gill said the company makes money through the apartment complexes willing to work with him. He said he wants the company to encompass as many local apartment complexes as possible to give students multiple options to suit their needs.

Gill said he works 60 hours a week and very late nights while remaining a full-time student. He said the work is worth it because he loves the business and he loves the students.

“Students are great to work with,” Gill said. “They’re smart. They’re quick. They’re easy to work with and they need the help because many are freshmen and first-time apartment shoppers,” Gill said. “We want to be there for them to be sure they don’t get scammed and to be with them every step of the way. I love to bring real estate experience and student experience together.”

Bobby Cave, 1984 UT alumnus and supervising salesperson and office manager, said at their first meeting, at Starbucks, he immediately saw the potential of the young man and wanted to help on his journey as a business owner.

“I don’t mean to sound like I love the guy, but I love the guy,” Cave said. “He did not go to Padre over spring break. He was probably working. He is so passionate and I’ll do anything for that guy to be successful. He won’t toot his own horn, but he is so honest and really wants to help people. It’s so rare to see a 22-year-old who has his life together the way Richie does.”

Gill’s girlfriend, history junior Morgan Caridi, said Gill is the hardest worker she knows and is proud of him for his accomplishments.

“It’s honorable for someone to balance school and work and do so well in both,” she said. “A lot of his time is spent on his computer. Us hanging out is us watching a movie, but he is always on his computer. Always working. It’s amazing.”

Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: Student starts West Campus real estate business

Implementing sustainable features with the future of a company in mind is the best way to maximize their economic benefits, said Gregory P. Fuller, chief operating officer at real estate firm Granite Properties.

On Tuesday, six panelists and moderator R.G. “Jerry” Converse of law firm Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. discussed methods of increasing the economic benefits of sustainability features added to buildings.

Sustainable features that contribute to “green” construction, such as solar panels, provide future economic benefits such as reduced energy costs when implemented correctly, Fuller said.

“The longer you’re going to stay, the more you can utilize the sustainability aspect for financial benefits,” he said. “We’re doing it for the employee base, we’re doing it for potential business, and if you’re doing it for all the right reasons, you can maximize your return.”

To increase the economic benefits of sustainability, the actual structure of the building should be secondary to the organization that will purchase, lease or construct the building, said Betsy del Monte, director of sustainability at architecture firm The Beck Group.

“Sustainability probably wasn’t thought about when this school [UT] was built, but here we are and it’s still serving its function,” she said. “Any building that is going to be occupied and is going to get the benefits of not just the reduced operational costs, but also the increased performance, is going to get additional economic benefits.”

Adding sustainable features to a project at the last minute is the most expensive way to construct a building, del Monte said. Thinking ahead is the simplest way to reduce costs of adding sustainable structures to a building, she said.

“There’s an element of education that has to happen within our companies,” she said. “We work very hard to educate completely throughout our firms so that each of our employees understands a project so that when we put it into play, every team member knows where we’re headed.”

The panel emphasized the ways different industries look at the problem of sustainability, said architecture graduate student Vince Ho. While architecture has a stronger focus on innovation, architects often overlook the emphasis businesses place on profit, she said.

“You want to be able to implement sustainability in the world so you need to know how the other industry is thinking and operating,” she said. “Architecture doesn’t approach the problem with the same concentration on profit as business, but there’s a kind of freedom that comes with that. If you always just predict what is profitable, then you might not move on and do something more innovative.”

A construction team works on a new West Campus apartment complex on Nueces and 26th Streets Thursday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

After years of moving at a slow pace, high-rise construction in West Campus has started up again as part of the city’s plans to attract Austin’s student population to the area.

The construction is a result of the University Neighborhood Overlay Plan, a 2004 Austin City Council initiative to create more housing opportunities for students and decrease commuting issues. Although West Campus construction has been slow in recent years due to economic turbulence, officials said construction has resumed in the recent economic recovery. Currently, there are plans of at least six new high rises in the West Campus area over the next two years.

Upon approval of the plan, construction of about 20 high-rise buildings such as Quarters, 21 Rio, The Block and Calloway House around West Campus began. Of the proposed six new buildings, some have been started and others are still in planning phases.

Land Development and Construction LLC, an Austin-based commercial real estate company, recently broke ground on a new six-story building at 21st Street and Pearl Street. Robert Lee, the real estate company’s CEO, said student housing is a top target for financiers to invest in following the recent recession.

“Everyone is seeking investment-based properties right now, and student housing is near the top of the list,” he said.

Lee said although the student housing market at other schools has been captured, the University Neighborhood Overlay Plan has opened parts of West Campus for expansion, and Austin’s population growth is making it a prime target for investors.

According to the Austin Business Journal, Austin is the ninth fastest-growing metropolitan area in America and gains 151 residents every day.

Monte Davis, owner of Austin-based real estate firm Davis Company Real Estate, said this expansion is necessary to meet the needs of students and young professionals moving into West Campus.

“Currently, we are about 18,000 beds short of what we need,” he said. “There are only about 6,000 [under construction], so we will even still be off the mark.”

Richie Gill, a Plan II and economics senior and owner of Mr. West Campus, a local real estate agency, said people are beginning to realize more and more what a favorable investment Austin is, and he will be interested to see how construction changes the city in the future.

“It has just taken a while for people to realize that the economy here is not nearly as volatile as it is on the east or west coast,” he said. “In five years, how in the world is the city going to look?”