A Real-Estate Win in Booth's Backyard

Alum Craig Huffman made a real-estate risk in Woodlawn pay off.

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“We had vision,” says Craig Huffman, AM ’94, MBA ’03 (XP-72), “We looked at this investment for what it could be, not what it was.” 

This March, Huffman and his company Ascendance Partners sold an 18-unit walk-up at 963-73 East 61st Street for $3.25 million, the highest recorded price per unit for an apartment building in the Woodlawn community at $180,556 per unit.

The building was purchased by Ascendance Partners in complete disrepair, with neighborhood complaints of loitering and drug trafficking on the property. Huffman says that they had to take a risk—this was before the large University of Chicago undergraduate dormitory was across the street. 

Now, University of Chicago professionals and graduate students occupy the majority of the building’s one- and two-bedroom units. Huffman hopes that the new building and its occupants will be a source of profit and investment for the surrounding neighborhood of Woodlawn.

“We were pioneering,” says Huffman. “We thought it could use capital investment and the kind of management that other neighborhoods farther north receive, so we took a risk. It worked.” 

Huffman cofounded Ascendance Partners, a Chicago-based commercial real estate investment firm, in 2006. He credits Booth with giving him the confidence and courage to start the company, which focuses on opportunities in the metropolitan Chicago area.

“Entrepreneurship requires you to use so many different muscles," Huffman says. "You really have to stretch yourself beyond a traditional job. Without Booth, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to do so.”

—By Leah Rachel von Essen
June 8, 2016