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A joint team of graduate students from
University of Colorado and Harvard
University won the 2012 ULI/Gerald
D. Hines Student Urban Design
Competition

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Victor Perez Amado, Master of Architecture
Colorado/Harvard University team

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Chad Murphy, MBA Real Estate
Colorado/Harvard University team

A joint team of graduate students from University of Colorado and Harvard University won the 2012 ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition (2012 Hines Competition) in Houston , Texas, on April 6. The Hines Competition, now in its tenth year, challenges multidisciplinary student teams to devise a comprehensive development program that addresses a real-world urban design challenge. This year’s challenge was to create a practical scheme for the best use of a 16.3-acre (6.6 ha) site in Houston that is owned by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

“We are all thrilled to have won the competition and at the same time humbled by the experience,” said Chad Murphy, a University of Colorado team member pursuing a master of business administration degree in real estate. “The three other teams were really strong. Seeing Mr. Hines at the presentation, witnessing the diversity of the jury, and seeing what jury members brought to the table was an incredible experience.”

The winning proposal, “Bayou Commons,” was strategically designed to be downtown Houston’s first residential district celebrating cultural diversity and urban lifestyle.  The master plan, originally named “Downtown Bayou,” was re-branded after the team considerably refined and expanded their initial proposal following University of Colorado/Harvard University team’s final-four selection and site tour in early March.

“The entire jury believed that if there was ever a poster child for multidisciplinary cooperation in this competition, it was the Colorado-Harvard team,” said jury member Richard Heapes, principal, Street Works, White Plains, N.Y.  “My own company is built to match this model and since I have a variety of different professionals working together, I constantly struggle for this type of interaction and cooperation.  Seeing this team do this in action was truly inspirational.”

“The jury was inspired by the innovation displayed by all four teams,” said jury chairman Jim Chaffin, of Chaffin Light Management, LLC, in Okatie, S.C.  “One of the things that Mr. Hines was insistent on with the creation of this competition was that it be a multidisciplinary process.  And it was very clear that all four teams had a balanced membership representing the proposed plans that were relevant, feasible, and innovative, while having a balance of economic sensitivity, economic viability, and community livability.”

Following are the four finalist teams that competed in the final round. Vote in the poll below for your favorite design.


University of Colorado/Harvard University (joint team) -“Bayou Commons”
Chad Murphy, MBA Real Estate
Alex Atherton, MBA Real Estate
Michael Albert, Master of Landscape Architecture
Anna Cawrse, Master of Landscape Architecture
Victor Perez Amado, Master of Architecture
Faculty Adviser – Anita Berrizbeitia
Professional Advisor – Todd Johnson



University of Michigan – “The Hill”



Jessica Hester, Master of Science in Design Research
Laura Reading, Master in Urban Planning
Reid Fellenbaum, Master in Architecture
Anne Fennema, Master in Urban Planning
Sylvia Harris, Master in Urban Planning
Faculty Adviser – Suzanne Lanyi Charles



Columbia University – “The Post”

Jennifer Chung, Master of Real Estate Development
Wendy Hoffman, Master of Real Estate Development
Jose Franco Soberano, Master of Real Estate Development
Zachary Craun, Master of Architecture and Urban Design
Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Master of Advanced Architectural Design
Faculty Adviser – Jesse Keenan



University of California, Berkeley – “The Grand”

Deepak Sohane, Master of Urban Design
Brian Chambers, Master of Urban Design
Carlos Emilio Sandoval Olascoaga, Master of Architecture
Jim Farris, MBA
Momin Mahammad, Master of Urban Design
Faculty Adviser – Peter Bosselmann

The USPS site is considered by many stakeholders to be a parcel that is critical for reconnecting the Theater District, the Cultural District, the Historic District, and greater downtown Houston to the Buffalo Bayou.

The Hines Competition is an ideas competition funded by Gerald H. Hines, founder and chairman of Hines, a privately owned real estate firm involved in real estate investment, development and property management worldwide. The Hines Competition strives 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. There is no expectation that any of the submitted schemes will be applied to the site. The winning team receives $50,000, and the finalist teams receive $10,000 each. This year, 139 university teams participated in the Hines Competition.

University of Colorado/Harvard University:Bayou Commons” creates a residential neighborhood in downtown Houston with a distinct focus on connecting residents and workers to the Bayou and the rest of downtown. A pedestrian corridor that cuts through the site links the Cultural District with new restaurants, offices, condos/apartments along with an open green space to the north of the rail yard. A walkable scale is created by the introduction of new blocks, along with shifting Franklin Street north while maintaining its overall capacity.


University of Michigan:The Hill” envisions a new livable downtown district in Houston through connections to the University of Houston’s Downtown and the Buffalo Bayou through the creation of diverse housing stock and unique parks. The “Houston Highline” park stretches from the bayou into the heart of the site, linking Houston’s Historic and Cultural Districts with this live-work-play community. Buildings gradually decrease in height toward the bayou, giving the project a distinctive architectural identity while connectivity is enhanced by a new network of walkable blocks and a transit center.

Columbia University: By maintaining the existing USPS office building and converting it into a center for artists, workshops, and incubator office space, “The Post” creates a cultural center within the site to complement the adjacent cultural district.

It also introduces roof-top entertainment such as cinemas and eateries to capitalize on the site’s views of downtown and beyond. Residential development maintains a human scale while providing housing for over 2,500 people at all income levels. A portion of the USPS distribution facility is also retained, and would be renovated to house a small-vendor produce market.

University of California – Berkeley:The Grand” proposes an elaborate network of public space fronting on the Buffalo Bayou, including community gardens, open space, and a kayak/canoe launch area that connects to the already-built open space across the water—creating an important new node along the Bayou. Washington Street is brought into the site as a primary corridor, linking downtown and the redevelopment to the west. The proposal aims to introduce high residential and commercial densities to the north of Washington Street with easy access to a potential commuter rail/Amtrak station onsite.

The Urban Land Institute 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 nearly 30,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

Choose your favorite design scheme.




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