Midtown Atlanta Site Selected As Study Area For 2016 Urban Land Institute Hines Student Competition

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Graduate Student Teams Challenged to Design a Market-Feasible, Sustainable Vision that Bridges Midtown and Downtown

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The Urban Land Institute (ULI) has announced the selection of an area in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood as the study site in the 14th annual ULI Hines Student Competition. The ideas competition provides both full- and part-time graduate-level student teams the opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development program for parts of a real, large-scale site. The team with the winning proposal, which will be selected in April, will receive $50,000.

The 2016 competition, which kicks off today, gives each team of five students 15 days to design and submit a master-plan proposal that includes presentation boards with drawings, site plans, tables, and market-feasible financial data. Teams must be multidisciplinary, reflecting at least three different urban design and development disciplines.

The competition is designed to simulate an actual urban planning and development scenario, with certain details changed for the purposes of the competition. It 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. Under the competition scenario, this group, dubbed the Midtown South Development Partnership, has selected the student team as master developer to design a vision that creates a comprehensive environment that is programmed, designed, built, and operated with all the elements necessary to promote a successful, sustainable mixed-use experience for its residents, workers, and visitors.

In this competition scenario, 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—by 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 landowners are seeking a master development proposal that includes an understanding of the market and nonmarket factors at play in building such a neighborhood and explores the value proposition of building and operating with this long-term vision.

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. Most of the competition study site is located in what is commonly known as Midtown Atlanta, one of the primary business districts in the city, located between the commercial and financial districts of downtown to its south and Buckhead to its north.

The Hines Student Competition is part of an ongoing ULI effort to raise interest among young people in creating better communities and improving development patterns, as well as increase awareness of the need for interdisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges. The competition is strategically structured to encourage cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design, and development of sustainable communities—among future land use professionals and allied professions, such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, historic preservation, engineering, real estate development, finance, psychology, and law. It is open to graduate students who are pursuing real estate–related studies at universities in the United States and Canada, including programs in real estate development, urban planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture.

The competition has been funded through an endowment from Gerald D. Hines, chairman of the global Hines real estate organization and a recipient of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. A legend in the land use industry, Hines is widely known as a leader who pioneered the use of high-quality planning and architecture as a marketable feature of development in office, residential, and mixed-use projects.

In February, the jury will select four student teams as finalists. These teams are then asked to expand their proposals and present them to the jury in Atlanta. A $50,000 prize will be awarded to the winning team, with $5,000 of the total going to the school. Each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000. This year, applications were submitted by 140 teams representing 59 universities in the United States and Canada. Included are 700 participating students, 141 academic advisers, and 41 professional advisers. Since the first competition was held in 2003, more than 6,700 students on over 1,100 teams have participated.

The teams will be expected to submit proposals that illustrate innovative approaches to five general elements: 1) planning context and analysis, 2) a master land use plan, 3) urban design, 4) site-specific illustrations of new development, and 5) development schedule and finances. Participants have received project briefing materials, including a comprehensive statement of the challenge, background information on the site, market information, relevant existing design proposals, site maps and photos, and other details, along with a list of materials required for team presentations. The competition is designed as an exercise: there is no intention that the students’ plans will be implemented as part of any revitalization of the site.

The teams must complete their project proposals and submit them to ULI headquarters by January 25, 2016. A jury will review all proposals in compliance with the deadline and select the four finalist teams and several honorable mentions. The finalists and honorable mentions will be announced February 22. In mid-March, during the final phase of the competition, the student finalist teams will have the opportunity to expand their original schemes and provide more detail for their plans. During this time, one member of each team will be brought to Atlanta at ULI expense to tour the site (though other team members may also join the tour), and the teams can revise their presentations. On April 7, finalist team members will present their schemes to the competition jury during a public forum in Atlanta. The event will culminate with announcement of the winning team.

Reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the competition, ULI will select 11 jurors from diverse backgrounds in real estate development to join jury chairman Tara Carter Hernandez, president of JCH Development in New Orleans. Jurors represent a strategic mix of land use experts, including developers, brokers, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, urban planners, and policy officials, among others.

For more information on the ULI Hines Student Competition, visit uli.org/hines.

About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (uli.org) is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has more than 36,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

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Robert Krueger
Urban Land Institute
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