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A team of graduate students representing the University of Maryland has taken top honors in the 2014 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Student Urban Design Competition with its plan to redevelop Nashville’s Sulphur Dell neighborhood as a healthy community. The University of Maryland team edged out teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of Texas at Austin in the 12th annual competition.

As the winning team, the University of Maryland students received $50,000; each of the remaining three finalist teams received $10,000. The announcement was made at the competition’s conclusion today in Nashville.

An ideas competition, the ULI Hines program is designed to simulate an actual urban design and development scenario. The 2014 competition was based on a hypothetical situation in which the site owners, working together as the Sulphur Dell Development Corporation, had asked for a proposal that transforms the historic Sulphur Dell neighborhood. The proposal assumed 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, the assignment included a request from the Sulphur Dell Development Corporation that submissions be conscious of other area stakeholders who own a number of adjacent properties—both historic and new—that would not be included in the redevelopment. Student teams were challenged to best determine how to integrate those existing sites and leverage their assets in order to create more value for the entire 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 jury chairman Bart Harvey, board member of Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C. He and the jury also noted the finalists’ meticulous market research in designing their proposals, along with a solid understanding of what type of development would appeal to residents’ sense of Nashville culture.

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The winning team from the University of Maryland. From left are Andrew Casavant, Matthew Miller, Rameez Munawar, David Ensor and Amina Mohamed.

The University of Maryland’s winning design—the “Chords”—proposed a partnership between the existing private owners and the state of Tennessee. The design captured the experiences of a diverse group of people brought together by regional connectors, culture, living, and fitness “strings.” The “strings” are intended to strengthen the connections to downtown and surrounding communities, as well as nearby amenities such as the ballpark, the waterfront, and Centennial Mall.

While based on a hypothetical situation, the 2014 Hines competition addresses the city’s desire to redevelop the broader Sulphur Dell area so that it attracts investment and generates value for individual property owners, city residents, and the greater region. In the 2007 Downtown Community Plan, the Sulphur Dell downtown neighborhood was identified as a location envisioned as a mixed-use area that will include residential, office, and commercial uses.

“It is a real honor that ULI selected Nashville to be the site of the Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition,” said Karl Dean, mayor of Nashville and former ULI Rose Center fellow. “This competition is a wonderful contribution to the future of development. Opportunities like this—where architecture, business, engineering, and planning students all work together—help prepare people for the real world that awaits them.”