Diego Reyes (’05) had a plan.
While many of his fellow alumni entered the UCLA Anderson MBA program looking to explore different career options, Reyes enrolled knowing he wanted to pivot toward institutional and commercial real estate. Fifteen years after his graduation, Reyes heads a company that manages investments in distressed urban communities, and is starting to look at university-correlated real estate assets. His commitment to revitalizing neighborhoods influenced his decision to give to UCLA Anderson’s newly created One Anderson Student Relief Fund, which focuses on some of the school’s most pressing needs.
“Now more than ever,” says Reyes, “it’s really important to support institutions that are vital to this country because, at least from a private-sector investment standpoint, people are thinking maybe this asset class isn’t going to perform the way it used to. That’s just sort of a microcosm of the support that might be pulled from universities. It makes it more important for all of us who believe in the significance of these institutions to support them.”
While still a student, Reyes was recruited by CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate firm focused on real estate and infrastructure investment, operation and development. Reyes remained with CIM Group for over 14 years before co-founding, with classmate Gabe Weinert (’05), Alter Mile Group, a real asset investment manager focused on investing in urban markets.
One of Alter Mile’s primary focuses is the re-urbanization of Reyes’ hometown of Detroit and its adjacent communities. “One of the things that really drew me to Anderson was its emphasis on entrepreneurship, and real estate investing is an extremely entrepreneurial discipline,” Reyes says, admitting he’s surprised he remained a “corporate guy” for as long as he did. But in 2018, he finally bit the entrepreneurial bullet and launched Alter Mile.
“I’m grateful to UCLA. Aside from the introduction to a great employer that launched a great career, there are the life-long relationships that I’ve made in the Anderson community.”
“I decided to form my own investment program, initially focused on a couple of things,” he says. “One of them was investing in the revitalization of Detroit. It’s where I was born and raised. I’ve been rooting for the urban renewal of that city, and wanted to put my money where my mouth was.
“I also wanted to take advantage of new federal legislation that offers tax incentives to invest in designated Opportunity Zones, which are communities throughout the country seeking stimulus via private-sector investment. The two of us founded Alter Mile to invest in urban neighborhoods where we see meaningful opportunity.”
Reyes is enthusiastic about opportunities back home.
“There are some pockets of Detroit that are getting lots of public and private support, and there are signs of revitalization. There’s job growth, there are new businesses springing up, cool restaurants and walkable streets in neighborhoods that were previously no-go zones after dark,” he says. “Our focus has actually been investing in neighborhoods that are adjacent to those markets. We’re investing in workforce housing or ‘naturally occuring affordable housing’ (NOAH), specifically in neighborhoods that will likely remain working-class neighborhoods. As all the adjacent communities improve, I have no doubt that these neighborhoods will also improve to some degree. It’s critically essential housing for Detroiters who are the teachers, janitors and shop workers. Simultaneously, the asset class has been really profitable.”
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the company’s focus, as Alter Mile has been looking at university-correlated real estate assets in a few different markets. “What we’re seeing is some real uncertainty around what campus-style housing or student housing is going to look like. Are people going to now be learning from a distance? Does the student housing asset class become less important, less valuable because of the remote structure?” Reyes stated that he does not believe this to be the case in the long term, but thinks it’s a critical time to support these communities in the near term.
For Reyes, that notion raised a flag signaling potential erosion of funding to universities at large. His response was to donate to the One Anderson Student Relief Fund in support of fellowships for the incoming class of 2022, technology upgrades to enable remote learning and a pivot in programming to ensure that our students receive the world-class Anderson experience they deserve.
Reyes’ decision to support today’s students is personal as well.
“I’m grateful to UCLA. Aside from the introduction to a great employer that launched a great career, there are the life-long relationships that I’ve made in the Anderson community,” he says. “I have some very close contacts that I hope to continue to move through life with. The more we remain connected through this community, the better it is for all of us.”