Lorber, Witkoff join U. Miami real estate panel

By Amy Tennery | May 03, 2010 05:26PM

New York City real estate bigwigs have become part of a group of 12 industry experts to establish a Center for Real Estate Studies and Research at the University of Miami.

The panel, which includes Howard Lorber, president and CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman and Steven Witkoff, CEO of the Witkoff Group, will also help expand the university’s undergraduate and graduate real estate curriculums, as part of the school’s larger expansion plan for business education.

Lorber, who has sat on the school’s overall advisory board for approximately 10 years, said that the panel aims to build a comprehensive program that eschews “run-of-the-mill” curriculum.

“One of [the university’s] desires is to develop a real estate program that could compete with NYU or Columbia,” Lorber said.

Lorber said that the program will be geared toward “people who are in Miami or would be attracted to Miami,” by taking full advantage of the city’s environs. Lorber hopes the school might establish a fund from which students wishing to test out real world development projects can receive grants.

Although he’s been involved in education for decades — Lorber has been on the board of Long Island University since the mid-1980s — he said that his home on Florida’s Fisher Island makes him feel a strong bond to the region.

Lorber would not divulge how soon the curriculum expansion will take effect or how much the new real estate research center will cost.

Witkoff also noted that his personal ties to South Florida led him to join the panel. He owns a home in Miami and his son is a student at the university’s undergraduate business school.

Witkoff said that real estate is one of several business specialties that the school hopes to emphasize.

“[The goal] is to develop the business school with various curriculums — finance, healthcare, real estate,” Witkoff said.

Barbara Kahn, dean of the business school, which includes undergraduate and graduate programs, cited real estate’s growing role in the Florida economy as central to the university’s decision to expand its program.

“As real estate has increasingly become integrated into the economy of South Florida and around the world, it has become a key strategic area for the school,” Kahn said in a written statement.