The Urban Land Institute (ULI) has released the short list of finalist teams in the 12th annual ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. The four graduate-level student teams—representing the Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”), Harvard University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Texas at Austin—will advance to the final round of competition in April.

This year’s competition tasked multidisciplinary student teams with creating a development vision for Nashville, Tennessee’s Sulphur Dell neighborhood, which was required to be comprehensively designed and operated with all the elements necessary to promote healthy living for its residents. The ideas competition is designed to simulate an actual urban design and development scenario, with certain details changed for the purposes of the competition. (The competition is designed as an intellectual exercise; there is no intention that the students’ plans will be implemented as part of any development of the site.) In April, a $50,000 prize will be awarded to the winning team; with the remaining three finalist teams receiving $10,000 each. This year, 163 teams comprising 815 students from 72 universities in the United States and Canada participated in the first round of competition.

The competition is based on a hypothetical situation in which the site owners, working together as the Sulphur Dell Development Corporation, have asked for a proposal that transforms the historic Sulphur Dell neighborhood. The owners’ request is made with an understanding of the market and nonmarket factors at play in building healthy places and of the value proposition of building and operating in ways that promote health. In addition to the guidelines stipulated by the site owners, it was requested that all proposals be conscious of other stakeholders since there are a number of either historic or new developments that are not intended to be redeveloped in the surrounding area. Student teams were challenged to determine how best to integrate those existing sites, while exploiting their assets in order to create more value for their proposed site.

The development schemes from the finalist teams are as follows:

Georgia Institute of Technology:Uptown Nashville” seeks to rebuild the current district identity to create a new and improved Sulphur Dell District. With the stadium development and other existing and proposed amenities acting as a catalyst, Uptown Nashville is intended to leverage existing and future amenities to foster the creation of a healthy, diverse, and profitable community.

Harvard University: The “Sulphur Dell Market District” is a healthy lifestyle community that catalyzes the revitalization of the city of Nashville and is prototypical of resilient urbanism for cities of a similar size. The proposal is based on a landscape framework of layered strategies of ecology, mobility, and food, along with creating the conditions for a diverse and resilient urban district that will continue to change and mature over time.

University of Maryland:  The “Chords” development proposes a partnership between the existing private owners and the state of Tennessee. The design captures the experiences of a diverse group of people who are brought together by regional connectors, culture, living, and fitness “strings.”

University of Texas at Austin:Greenheart Village” establishes a new model of urban living, initiating the rebranding of Nashville as an active, healthy, and engaged community. Greenheart Village uses adaptive infrastructure to respond to environmental, social, and economic changes, fostering an environment that encourages adaptation as people engage their local surroundings and a changing world.

According to jury chairman Bart Harvey, board member of Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C., many of the submissions’ themes were around resilience, healthy living, improved use of the existing bike and pedestrian path, opening up the river, and creating a sense of place around the new baseball ballpark. This year’s entries paid special attention to defining the area by respecting the existing area assets and building off them in order to attract and create a new mixed-use neighborhood.

“This year’s finalists found creative but financially feasible ways of building off the area’s strengths while attending to the concerns of flood resilience and healthy living,” said Harvey. “This group stood apart from other submissions in how they better understood the trends and connections to the surrounding areas along with both the strengths and limits of the marketplace. It is an assignment that renews your faith in the emerging development community.”

In the final phase of the 2014 competition, which concludes on April 3, all of the final four teams will be given the opportunity to expand their original schemes and respond in more detail.  Next month, one representative from each finalist team will visit Sulphur Dell, all expenses paid, and will have the opportunity to tour the site and refine the team’s presentation. On April 2 and 3, finalist-team members will present their schemes to the competition jury during a public forum in Nashville. The event will culminate with the announcement of the name of the winning team.

For more information on the ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition, visit:  http://udcompetition.org.