June 17, 2015
What’s in a Name: Q&A With RISE Real Estate President Greg Blais on Rebranding the Company
By Andie Lowenstein, Associate Editor
This week, RISE: A Real Estate Company, formerly known as Ambling University Development Group, unveiled the company’s new name and branding. Over the past two decades, the team has overseen the development of 72 projects in 22 states totaling more than 15.6 million square feet of properties valued at $2.3 billion. MHN spoke with RISE President Greg Blais to find out what the rebranding means for the company.
MHN: What was the inspiration for the new company name and rebranding?
Blais: It did not come easily. The thought process in doing this came as a result of a few things. Let’s look at our prior name for example—Ambling University Development Group. The audience, when hearing or reading that name, would naturally equate what we’re doing to specifically university campuses. When you look at our business and what we do, only about 50 percent of our business is associated with on-campus development. We are active in conventional and market rate mixed-use urban infill type of communities that are not affiliated with universities. So, when we pulled back and started looking at that, we realized our name did not fit us any longer and we were doing more things than just the university side of our business.
We did solicit third-party consultation. A group in Atlanta helped us in building our story and what we’re trying to accomplish. After an extremely exhaustive process, “RISE” rose to the top of the list. The attributes behind the letters are: “R” for reliable and reasonable, “I” for impactful and inspired, “S” for serve and simplify and “E” for experienced and empowering. It really stuck and made us feel good about where we were going and where we wanted to go as a company. “RISE” was on the list for a long time before we chose it. It just seemed to keep creeping back up in conversation and finally we couldn’t ignore it.
MHN: What will RISE do differently than Ambling University Development Group?
Blais: Nothing. We are going to continue to execute our same business plan both working with campuses and universities around the country, we’re going to continue to work with our investors, management company and development company in building market rate conventional assets. It’s the same people that everybody has come to know formally as AUDG, the same leadership, same missions. Those kinds of things transfer with the name RISE. We don’t have plans to implement, at least initially, new business processes. We want to be known as who you knew us to be under the old name. Let’s keep building relationships and doing business together.
MHN: Why is faith and giving back important to company culture and business?
Blais: We’re not shy about that—we are a Christian-based, faith-based business. We don’t shy away from the fact that we’re trying to execute our purpose as a business through a higher plan. Our team is unified through our faith and a higher standard. We want to provide impactful communities that touch people’s lives and elevate their experience when living with us. We do take our business seriously and we very much give credit where credit is due.
MHN: What can we expect to see in the future of on-campus housing?
Blais: The future is going to be steady. The trends will continue to be more replacement housing where the circa 1960s, ’70s and ’80s inventory will be replaced with modern housing for the generations of not only today but those that will come that are living differently on campus than many of us who attended school in the ’80s and ’90s did. The continual strain on state budgets, you will continue not to see money flowing from those budgets to facilitate auxiliary (housing, parking, dining and athletic facilities) construction on campus. As a result of that, people like us and our peers should have opportunity to continue working and developing relationships that yield exciting residential solutions for campuses. I think there will be a market there; I think it will be a calculated market and more of a replacement-type project versus a new project without any inventory coming off line. There will be some exceptions but they’ll be the minority.
MHN: What does the future of multifamily housing look like?
Blais: There are a lot of players in multifamily housing with a lot of projects, often in the same market being undertaken. I feel like that conservatism will begin to come back into the way markets are underwritten and capital is deployed. That is not to say projects are not going to get done, I just think because there are so many firms and projects out there being done now, at some point we will have to look more conservatively at the markets with whom others are playing in before we go and find sites for ourselves.
MHN: What keeps you up at night?
Blais: Are we, at RISE, developing appropriate projects that folks will want to come and live with us, develop a relationship with us and stay with us? Is what we’re doing providing them an experience that leaves positive memories and impressions? We want to impact and touch lives every day by providing an experience. If we fail at that, that’s what keeps me up at night.
MHN: What else should our readers know about?
Blais: RISE is a name change and a rebrand. It is not a repurpose, it is not a re-people and it’s not a reprocessing of how we do business. We’re not going anywhere, we’ll continue building on our last two decades of work and the best is yet to come.