Alumni Voices : Jake Dietrich
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TRAJECTORY?
My path started at a young age. Growing up in the “Midwestern Mecca of Architecture” – Columbus, Ind. – I was immersed in a context of brilliant design on a daily basis. Buildings stamped by Saarinens, Pei, Meier, and Weese cultivated my interest in art. My father’s work as a forester and contractor led me to appreciate nature and the systems that bring buildings together. Finally, thanks to a great vocational skills program in my high school, I worked my schedule around being able to take architectural drawing classes.
After attending the CAP Summer Design Workshop, I knew Ball State was the place for me to figure out how all of my interests could align in a way that would allow me best contribute to the built environment. After selecting the urban planning and development degree path, and flipping houses for a real estate investor during my freshman and sophomore summer months, the early part of my college journey had all signs pointing towards a career in real estate development.
During my junior year, I was hired for a summer internship at Milhaus, a BUPD alumni-led multi-family development company that was just a startup at the time. That internship would eventually lead into a full-time job managing the development of new apartment buildings in urban core neighborhoods. The work was different every day, challenging, frustrating, and inspiring. I loved every bit of it. After managing several projects, I knew that I wanted to take a leading role in deal making and negotiation for these projects. So, I chose to go back to school and earn my law degree – while still working full-time for Milhaus. My law school classes, much like those at CAP, taught me to think in ways that would set my real estate projects up for success. Over the past decade, I’ve been blessed to continuously grow in responsibility and lead the development of more than 3,000 housing units across the Midwest.
WHAT DOES YOUR CURRENT JOB ENTAIL?
As vice president of acquisitions and development at Onyx+East, a leading developer and builder of new construction homes in the most desirable neighborhoods, my role includes establishing market strategies and leading a team focused on the identification and development of land opportunities. Our company builds infill for-sale townhomes and single-family homes, and build-to-rent attached and detached homes – often figuring out the tough sites that other developers cannot. After negotiating with property owners to secure land control, my team and I lead our engineers and designers to obtain entitlements, approvals, and permits for our projects.
Soon after graduating with my BUPD from CAP, I was tasked with leading the development of a new multi-family community – Circa – located just off of Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indianapolis. At the time, Mass Ave was in the infancy of its revitalization into the dense, vibrant, walkable cultural district that it is today. What makes this particular project especially memorable for me were the challenges and constraints associated with it – saving an historic building, working through the restrictions of a locally designated historic district, environmental remediation, juxtaposing all of that with new construction buildings with a modern design, and meeting the high expectations of our institutional investment partner – all while being just 23 years old. Despite some bumps along the way, it turned out really great. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to lead and learn from my mistakes at such an early age.
Projects near Mass Ave in Indianapolis are a highlight of Jake Dietrich’s career.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR STUDENTS WHO WANT A CAREER SIMILAR TO YOURS?
Seek out opportunities to surround yourself with good people who you want to learn from and spend time with – bosses, coworkers, partners, and clients. That’s when the magic happens.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BALL STATE OR CAP MEMORY TO SHARE?
At the beginning of my junior year, I asked Prof. Scott Truex during studio if there were any alumni working in real estate development who he could connect me with so I could start lining up an internship for the next summer. Without a blink, the first name Scott mentioned was Tadd Miller. Scott mentioned Tadd had just launched a new development company, Milhaus, and introduced us. Thanks to that introduction, I’ve had the blessing of calling Tadd a mentor, boss, and friend for the past twelve years. I try to return the favor to Scott and other Ball State students as often as possible.