Case Studies

Among the most well received of the Institute’s content offerings, the ULI Case Studies program publishes in-depth studies of real estate projects around the world that push boundaries and showcase innovations in design and construction methods, project finance, urban regeneration and revitalization, and adaptive use of historic building stock. Every development has a backstory with key players, victories, setbacks, and lessons learned, and each case study aims to tell it.

After transitioning to a web-based, print-on-demand publishing system, ULI Case Studies are more accessible and popular than ever before. In FY 2016, there were on average 15,000 page views and downloads of case studies per month—a significant increase in web traffic from the previous year. Four member-only webinars featuring interviews with project teams boosted the program’s efforts to engage digitally with audiences.

In FY 2016, 12 distinctive real estate developments were profiled by the Case Studies Program, and they represent a diversity of creative approaches to fulfilling market demand while also, in several cases, fulfilling broader social needs, stabilizing neighborhoods, or returning vacant properties to productive use. Below are summaries of select case studies from the 2016 cycle, organized by theme.

Mixed-Income and Green

Paseo Verde, a mixed-income apartment community powered by solar panels and other sustainable features.
Paseo Verde, a mixed-income apartment community powered by solar panels and other sustainable features.

Among affordable housing developers, the movement to incorporate renewable energy, energy-efficient appliances and systems, and other sustainability features is gaining ground. The Rose in Minneapolis and Paseo Verde in Philadelphia are two examples of mixed-income, multifamily developments that aimed for ambitious sustainability targets while meeting demand for high-quality, affordable rental housing. Both developments offer health-oriented features and amenities to residents in the form of well-lit staircases, community gardens, and fitness/yoga studios.

Developed by AMP, a north Philadelphia community development nonprofit organization, with the Jonathan Rose Companies of New York City, Paseo Verde is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified, transit-oriented, 120-unit affordable apartment and townhome community that offers residents easy access to Center City—replete with jobs, amenities, and services—via proximity to a major multimodal transit hub. Through its adoption of the Living Building Challenge, the Rose will implement sustainability measures that exceed the LEED certification. The 90-unit building with market-rate and affordable apartments completes a multiyear revitalization of the South Quarter district of the Phillips neighborhood by affordable housing developer Aeon and the neighborhood organization called Hope Community.

Large-Scale Urban Regeneration

Bosco Verticale, part of the redevelopment of Porta Nuova.
Bosco Verticale, part of the redevelopment of Porta Nuova.

Developed by Hines Italia, Porta Nuova is a 72-acre (29 ha) urban regeneration project north of Milan’s city center that has succeeded in revitalizing an abandoned area into vibrant, mixed-use district that buzzes with 24-hour activity. The project also adds significant acreage to the public realm and serves to reconnect three previously separate neighborhoods with a network of pedestrian walkways, cycling paths, and a 22-acre (9 ha) public park.

Efforts to develop the area, known as Garibaldi-Repubblica, were stymied by a complicated patchwork of public and private ownership. Hines chairman Gerald Hines was directly involved in the early vision for Porta Nuova, working closely with COIMA, an Italian family-run firm, to assemble the land and develop a master plan for the area. Ultimately, plans for three distinct areas—Garibbaldi, Varesine, and Isola—were designed with the assistance of the world’s most notable architects and urban designers, including César Pelli, Nicholas Grimshaw, and Jan Gehl. The result is a mixed-use program of 1.5 million square feet (140,000 sq m) of office space, more than 430,000 square feet (40,000 sq m) of high-end retail and cultural space, and over 400 residences, including Bosco Verticale, two residential towers featuring lush, vertical landscaping. An integrated development of old and new, Porta Nuova was designed as a context-sensitive project: Historic buildings at the edge blend in with existing neighborhoods, while mid- and high-rise buildings toward the center provide Porto Nuova with significant urban density.

Small-Scale, Boutique Multifamily 

A common courtyard is one of several shared amenities in Sofia Lofts, a boutique residential development.
A common courtyard is one of several shared amenities in Sofia Lofts, a boutique residential development.

Small-scale developers are seizing upon vacant infill sites to build boutique projects that repair the urban fabric and bring vibrancy back to neighborhoods. Both Oslo, a nine-unit apartment building in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and Sophia Lofts, a 17-unit project that incorporates historic elements in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood, are tailored to the car-free lifestyles and sharing propensities of millennials. House sharing is not uncommon for young professionals in high-cost markets. Oslo modernizes this concept through a series of three- and four-bedroom apartments with en-suite bathrooms and a kitchen/living common area. Sophia Lofts balances smaller private apartments with amenities that encourage socialization, including a generous interior courtyard and on-site bike- and car-sharing services. A 1920s-era historic cottage that serves as an anchor for the site houses a technology company, providing the site with day-to-night energy.

Adaptive Use of Industrial Sites 

A Bethlehem Steel facility provides a dramatic backdrop to the Steelstacks Arts and Cultural Campus.
A Bethlehem Steel facility provides a dramatic backdrop to the Steelstacks Arts and Cultural Campus.

Two Case Studies projects featured creative repurposing of buildings and infrastructure from heavy manufacturing’s heyday. Steelstacks Arts and Cultural Campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, incorporates old blast furnaces and historic buildings from an old Bethlehem Steel facility into a multiuse campus dedicated to local arts and cultural programming. An elevated walkway/trestle gives visitors a close-up look at the furnaces, which serve as a dramatic backdrop to a performing arts pavilion. Located in Center City, an area of Philadelphia that is experiencing a residential boom, AF Bornot Dye Works adapted three timber- and concrete-framed buildings that were used for various industrial purposes in the early 20th century for use as loft apartments with ground-floor urban retailers that serve a growing neighborhood.

Office-to-Residential Conversion

Mercantile Place in Dallas, Texas, reflects a trend of office-to-residential conversions taking place in cities across the United States, particular as older, Class B and C properties no longer meet the space requirements of today’s office tenants. Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller was eager to find a development partner experienced enough to handle a large-scale redevelopment project whose purpose was to add residential density to downtown. Forest City Enterprises responded, and pursued the redevelopment and conversion of two mid-century buildings, including the 31-story Mercantile Bank Building and a second property, into new multifamily apartments catering to professionals working in the urban core. Along with the Wilson building, a previous office-to-residential conversion, and a newly constructed residential tower, the four buildings together have added 704 residential units to the city’s downtown.

Learn more about ULI Case Studies