Former Regent's Gift Boosts New UW Real Estate Program

The Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, a comprehensive new real estate program, is being launched by the UW College of Architecture and Urban Planning with the help of a $1 million gift from former Regent H. Jon Runstad, '65, and his wife, Judy, '74.

The real estate program will be multidisciplinary, drawing on present UW strengths in law, construction, finance, planning, architecture, geography and public affairs, as well as bringing leading real estate scholars to the University. Many commercial real estate-related fields are short staffed following downsizing during the 1990s. One goal of the program is to graduate 20 new professionals a year.

Through a state matching-fund program, the Runstad gift generated an additional $250,000 for the University, bringing the total value of the H. Jon and Judith M. Runstad Endowment for Excellence in Real Estate to $1.25 million. Income from the matching funds and a portion of the Runstad endowment will be used to create the Runstad Professorship in Real Estate.

"Commercial real estate, a major driver of the economy in the Pacific Northwest, has experienced an upheaval during the last decade," says Robert Filley, director of the UW's Center for Community Development and Real Estate.

"The time is right for the University to develop a program of education and research that focuses on regional market conditions and issues, and that can help the industry deal with the changing needs of their communities," he says.

Both Runstads are active commercial real estate figures, Jon as co-founder of Wright Runstad & Co., developer and manager of large-scale urban and suburban office buildings in the Western United States, and Judy as a land-use, environmental and development attorney with Foster Pepper & Shefelman. Jon Runstad served as a UW regent from 1987 to 1998 and was president of the UW Alumni Association in 1982-83.

The Runstad gift represents a major boost to the campaign to establish an endowment for the real estate program, a drive that is more than two-thirds of the way to its $3 million goal, Filley says. Re-establishing a real estate program after an absence of about 25 years would not be possible without active industry participation, he says. Such partnerships are at the core of all recognized university programs across the nation.

Another goal is to generate needed research and information. An example is a recently released database of office space for lease in the Puget Sound area—the most comprehensive database ever—compiled by the UW and the Commercial Brokers Association. The database of office properties can be used by the 2,000 members of the Commercial Brokers Association and by UW faculty and students conducting research to aid regional policy makers.

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