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Building the Future - Forging a career in commercial real estate development

Daniels School of Business alumnus Jon Boyajian (BSM ’05), a principal at Echo Real Estate Capital, wishes Purdue’s Dean V. White Real Estate Finance Program was around when he was a student.

Targeting the growing demand for talent within the rapidly evolving real estate industry, the program provides an academic experience for students that equips them to plan, develop and manage successful commercial real estate projects. High-impact experiential learning opportunities connect students with real estate experts and prepare them for industry-leading positions and careers.

“I didn’t find real estate, real estate found me,” Boyajian says of his time at Purdue. “Coming out of undergrad, I went into the sales program for a national home builder, which at the time was a Fortune 50 company. That’s what got me into real estate.”

Relying on the marketing and communications skills he developed at Purdue, Boyajian worked for the home builder for two years during the run up to the housing bubble, but was laid off when the bubble began to burst and the company was forced to reduce overhead.

“I had to reassess,” he says. “I liked real estate, but residential wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long term, so I took a job as a leasing associate with a firm in Chicago, and that started me on the path of commercial real estate development.”

Boyajian was quickly promoted to director of leasing with responsibility for a portfolio of more than 30 projects and 8 million square feet of retail space, but faced yet another challenge resulting from the ongoing real estate crisis that drew on his finance coursework at Purdue.

“We had a quarter billion dollars of construction debt that we needed to refinance and capital markets were frozen, so that didn't happen,” he says. “The whole house of cards collapsed. I learned a lot of lessons about growing and expanding too fast and what can ultimately happen when the markets move against you.”

Following stops at several other commercial real estate developers, Boyajian and his partners formed Echo Real Estate Capital in 2016. It specializes in build-to-suit development, value-add investments, sale/leasebacks and capital markets advisory services for healthcare providers, national retailers, industrial manufacturing and distribution companies, and general office users. “We have about $200 million in assets under management and a development pipeline of about $500 million,” he says.

Boyajian points to several trends now driving the industry. “The rise of eCommerce and the reshoring of manufacturing to reduce dependency on foreign imports, particularly from China, has led to tremendous growth on the industrial side,” he says. “On the healthcare side, insurance payers continue to push the delivery of care away from hospital campuses to an off-campus, ambulatory setting. We develop and invest in buildings that are convenient for patients and healthcare providers and are surrounded by amenities like restaurants and shopping centers.”

Boyajian recently shared his career story with students, describing how he got into real estate and how those seeking a career in the industry can get on a path to becoming an investor or a developer. He is “absolutely thrilled” that Purdue now offers coursework and academic programming that helps students learn about his chosen field.

“As an alumnus, I know the caliber of graduates coming out of Purdue,” he says. “The real estate finance program will provide a pipeline of talent that can help lead the industry into the future.”