A site in downtown New Orleans has been chosen as the site for the 13th annual Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Competition. The ideas competition provides graduate-level student teams with the opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development program for parts of the Tulane/Gravier and Iberville downtown neighborhoods. The team with the winning proposal will be selected in April and receive $50,000.

The 2015 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 small landowners, residents, local businesses, and others in the area bound by the upcoming Lafitte Greenway, the eastern edge of a new medical district, and crossed by the elevated I-10 highway have come together to create the North Claiborne Neighborhood Improvement Association (NCNIA)—a fictional entity created for the purpose of the competition. NCNIA is concerned that the competition’s study area is subject to influence from future surrounding developments and has asked for proposals to sustain a growing and thriving community.


Aerial view with the competition primary study area outlined in red. (Daniel Lobo/ULI)

Specifically, the fictitious NCNIA is seeking a master-plan proposal that transforms the area into a thriving urban neighborhood, but also highlights its locational advantages, including its proximity to the French Quarter, adjacency to the medical district, and interaction with the Lafitte Greenway. The proposal should demonstrate an understanding of all factors at play, both market and nonmarket, in building sustainable and thriving communities as highlighted in ULI’s Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places. Student team proposals must be comprehensive and take into account many site factors, including the Lafitte Greenway, the new Faubourg Lafitte housing development, the edge of St. Louis Street, the University Medical Center (UMC) and Veterans Administration (VA) hospital complexes, and the relation to both North Claiborne and the I-10 highway.

The study area is part of the neighborhoods most commonly known as Tulane/Gravier and Iberville. This historically rich area is composed of a mixture of residential, industrial, and commercial zoning that includes manufacturing plants and other small industrial complexes, many defunct, others still operational. Due to its unique location, the neighborhood faces the challenge of retaining the existing communities while accommodating the new density that new workforce needs will demand of the area.


General ULI Hines Competition site area outlined in red, within its immediate area of influence. (Daniel Lobo/ULI)

While based on a hypothetical situation, the 2015 Hines competition does reflect many real-life concerns of New Orleans. The competition addresses the city’s continued effort to develop sustainable neighborhoods that represent New Orleans’s uniqueness with the promise of economic innovation and inclusion and access to cultural, employment, transportation, and housing resources. As part of these efforts, the city recently completed the Livable Claiborne Communities (LCC) study. This study, encompassing seven diverse neighborhoods and a portion of the central business district, links community revitalization analysis and recommendations for the Claiborne Corridor with transportation and redevelopment scenarios. The LCC study provides a holistic approach to community revitalization combined with a set of alternative scenarios for transportation and development opportunities over the next 20 to 30 years.

The Hines competition is part of an ongoing ULI effort to raise interest among young people in creating better communities, improving development patterns, and increasing 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 a $3 million 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.

In February, the jury will select four student teams as finalists. These teams are then requested to expand their proposal and present it to the jury in New Orleans. 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 from 140 teams representing 70 universities in the United States and Canada, with 700 students participating in total. Since 2003, the first year the competition was held, over 6,000 students on more than 1,000 teams have participated, representing schools in the U.S. and Canada.

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