Four university teams, including two from Harvard University, one from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and one from the University of Miami, have been selected as the finalists for the 14th annual Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Student Competition, an ideas competition that provides both full- and part-time graduate-level student teams the opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development scheme for an actual, large-scale site in an urban area. The four teams are advancing to the final round of the competition in April, where they will compete for a $50,000 first place prize.
The 2016 competition challenged student teams to design and submit a master-plan proposal that included presentation boards with drawings, site plans, tables, and market-feasible financial data for an area in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood. This year’s competition is based on a hypothetical situation in which key area landowners have reached out to owners of smaller parcels and have come together as a group with a common strategy supporting the vision for building mixed-use sustainable and vibrant neighborhoods. The teams are tasked with transforming this transitional area and completing the vision for Midtown Atlanta as a thriving, sustainable, mixed-use, walkable, and transit-accessible neighborhood; the exercise includes taking advantage of the site’s proximity to downtown and Technology Square, its adjacency to Peachtree Street and public transportation, and its strong regional access.
“The jury was excited to see the level of quality and interest in the competition, the demonstration of creative ideas, and presentation of viable development projects,” said jury chair Tara Carter Hernandez, president of JCH Development in New Orleans. “As a ‘thought competition,’ the integration of thoughtful ideas, as well as skill sets and teamwork, is what will be required for the real world experiences the students will encounter in their future work, meeting the true intent of the program.”
The finalist teams and development schemes are:
- Georgia Institute of Technology: “Breaking the Fourth Wall” is an integrated, mixed-use assortment of social spaces to help Atlantans embrace its vibrant public realm.
- Harvard University: “Converge ATL” weaves together a hybrid-urban landscape that increases value for all real estate blocks in Midtown Atlanta by integrating the disparate city blocks separated by Interstate 85.
- Harvard University: “The Midtown Beat” weaves together a strategy for the redevelopment of the Midtown neighborhood that capitalizes on some of the district’s innovation, culture, and health.
- University of Miami: “The Matrix” is a mixed-use development program aptly named to reflect Midtown Atlanta’s role as the city’s lead district in technological advancements.
In addition to the $50,000 awarded to the team presenting the winning proposal ($5,000 of the $50,000 goes to the university), each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000.
Though based on a hypothetical situation, the 2016 Hines Student Competition reflects many real-life concerns of Atlanta. In recent years, the city has supported increased market demand for urban real estate products with strategies to attract investment in its urban core and along key commercial corridors.
“The teams demonstrated a good sense and understanding of Atlanta’s general market and social conditions in their proposals,” said juror Constance Callahan, first vice president of SunTrust Community Capital in Atlanta. “They each suggested a healthy mix of uses to activate the area at various times of the day and night. I was pleased how most teams promoted the idea of pedestrian and recreation opportunities in and around the subject area while enhancing the connections to both Georgia Tech and to MARTA (the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority).”
“As a resident of Atlanta’s Midtown and a real estate professional, reviewing these proposals have been particularly enjoyable and inspiring,” added juror Katherine Molyson, vice president at Cousins Properties Incorporated in Atlanta. “The students’ range of diverse backgrounds and contexts have helped to challenge preconceived notions of this Midtown site. A solid understanding of the market conditions and neighborhood dynamics, along with compelling underwriting, was evident with the finalists’ submissions.”
In the final phase of the competition, the finalist teams will have the opportunity to expand their original schemes and add more details for their plans. Team representatives will be brought to Atlanta at ULI’s expense to tour the site on March 11, providing an opportunity for the teams to revise their presentations. On April 7, the finalists will present their schemes to the competition jury during a public forum in Atlanta. The event will culminate with announcement of the winning team.