An Exercise in Community Building: the ULI Hines Student Competition

ULI’s ongoing efforts to raise interest among young people in creating better communities are reflected in the ULI Hines Student Competition, an annual ideas competition that provides graduate students the opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development scheme for a large-scale site in an urban area.

The competition, which emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary solutions to development challenges, was created with a generous endowment to the ULI Foundation from ULI Life Trustee Gerald D. Hines, founder of the Hines real estate organization. “We look forward to this competition every year, and to seeing these bright young people come forth with outstanding ideas and projects to improve our cities,” Hines said. “The interdisciplinary approach and the tight deadlines give aspiring students a glimpse into what the real estate business is actually like. They are the future of the built environment.”

A redevelopment plan for a Cincinnati site presented by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University took top honors in the 2019 competition. Members of the team were awarded a prize of $50,000 at the conclusion of the competition in Cincinnati in April 2019. The finalist teams, one from the University of Cincinnati and two from the University of Texas at Austin, each received $10,000. Participants were tasked with creating a redevelopment plan for a site in Cincinnati comprising portions of a highway, the central business district, and the downtown riverfront along the Ohio River. The teams evaluated the potential to deck the highway and combine it with adjacent parcels, with the ultimate goal being to connect the downtown to the riverfront and create a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented, sustainable, mixed-use neighborhood.

  • “We look forward to this competition every year, and to seeing these bright young people come forth with outstanding ideas and projects to improve our citiesThey are the future of the built environment.”  

    – ULI Life Trustee Gerald D. Hines, creator of the ULI Hines Student Competition and founder of the Hines real estate organization

The winning scheme from the MIT-Harvard team, “The Cincy.Stitch,” envisioned repositioning a pivotal stretch of waterfront not as the city’s edge, but as the center of a connected region. “All of us, in our approach to urban design, planning, finance, architecture, and landscape architecture, really think of cities as human habitat,” said team leader Joshua Brooks, who is pursuing a master of city planning degree at MIT. “As we embarked on this assignment, we wanted to take a position on what we think cities should be, and our proposal did that.”

Longtime ULI Foundation Governor Alex J. Rose chaired the jury for the 2019 ULI Hines Student Competition.“ The jury was impressed with all of the teams in terms of the completeness of their presentations, the creativity, and all of the thought that went into their proposals,” said Rose, senior vice president of Continental Development Corporation in El Segundo, California. “The MIT-Harvard team stood out because it demonstrated the greatest cohesiveness by an interdisciplinary team to solve an urban challenge requiring multiple disciplines.”

The 2019 winner and finalists were chosen from 90 teams representing more than 40 universities in the United States and Canada. More than 9,000 students have participated in the ULI Hines Student Competition since its first year in 2003. It is open to graduate students who are pursuing real estate–related studies at universities around the world, including programs in real estate development, urban planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture.

The competition helps raise awareness among students about the need for interdisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges. “The Hines program gives us the opportunity to see what the education system is doing in terms of sowing the seeds for the future of our industry,” said 2019 jury member and ULI Trustee Stephen P. Navarro, president and chief executive officer of the Furman Co. Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina.

In addition to Rose and Navarro, other jury members were Clete J. Benken, partner, MKSK, Covington, Kentucky; Andre Brumfield, urban strategies and design leader, principal, Gensler, Chicago; Merrie S. Frankel, president, Minerva Realty Consultants LLC, New York City; Suzette Goldstein, director of planning, HOK, Washington, D.C.; Richard M. Gollis, cofounder and principal, the Concord Group LLC, Newport Beach, California; Steven T. Kenat, principal and director of community development, GBBN, Cincinnati; Robert C. Lieber, executive managing director, C-III Capital Partners, New York City; Kevin Riley, chief operating officer and partner, North American Properties, Cincinnati; Lori Singleton, vice president and corporate design director, Smith Group, Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Charles L. Thomas, vice president and director, real estate equity investments, Eagle Realty Group, Cincinnati.

Use Navigator to apply to serve on the ULI Hines Student Competition Jury.

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