CRE Consulting Corps: Making a Difference in Las Cruces

"The connection the consulting team drew between mission and real estate decisions was most illuminating—it’s easy to lose sight of that connection."

Greg Walke, University Architect, New Mexico State University


Client: A land grant institution, New Mexico State University (NMSU) has a presence in virtually every county in New Mexico. The University serves a multicultural population through teaching, research and service at the undergraduate and graduate levels. NMSU is a NASA Space Grant College, a Hispanic-serving institution, and home to the very first Honors College in New Mexico. The University owns numerous parcels of land within the University boundaries, in or near the city of Las Cruces, and throughout the state. NMSU has sufficient land within the core of its Las Cruces campus to accommodate expansion requirements for many years. While some of the outlying parcels have improvements, much of the excess property is raw land.

Challenge: The primary objective of this Consulting Corps engagement was to provide NMSU with professional guidance in more effective management of its extensive land holdings, specifically the land holdings in the immediate vicinity of its main campus in Las Cruces. The team goal was to show NMSU how it can monetize its holdings into successive annual cash streams that will help promote its academic, civic and economic missions.


Assessment: In late July 2013, the five-member Consulting Corps team engaged in a five-day process of document review, on-site interviews, and meetings with the University’s leadership. The document review included the University’s Master Plan and Housing Master Plan and presentation materials from its Land Summary and Water Rights Development studies, along with a review of city and regional plans, economic studies and independent reports. The team conducted interviews with individuals representing NMSU staff, local economic and development experts, local private sector business interests, and city planning personnel. Also, the team held a two-hour meeting with the University Board of Regents Real Estate Committee to clarify and affirm the key criteria by which the institution wishes to make its real estate decisions.


Recommendations: A principal recommendation was that NMSU be proactive rather than responsive in maximizing the value of its land, both for program use and in monetizing land to support program. The study demonstrated use of data analysis tools in the implementation of its real estate plan. The heart of the team’s report included observations and sometimes aspirational recommendations for each of the four property groups that comprise the University’s main campus and surrounding properties—the core campus, the University Avenue corridor, satellite properties near the main campus, and NMSU’s extensive outlying land holdings. The study provided guidance to NMSU in the use of its land holdings to supplement its academic, civic and economic mandates, concluding with a strategy to begin implementing the study recommendations.


“I think our recommendations are clear, sensible, and in some cases inspiring; and that, I believe, was the primary objective of us all.”
Jon Willis, CRE

Team: Team members included: Jackie Buhn, CRE, AthenianRazak, Philadelphia; Michael Dinn, CRE, Dinn Focused Marketing, Wilder, KY; Cassandra Francis, CRE, KARIATID, Chicago; Mark Troen, CRE, The Winnmark Group, Warwick, NY; and Jon Willis, CRE, Global Property Strategies, Issaquah, WA. Jackie Buhn served as team leader. Special thanks to Wayne Grinnell, CRE, from Las Cruces, who both represented the Consulting Corps Steering Committee onsite and provided valuable assistance as a local resource.