Four teams have been selected as the finalists for the 18th annual ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition, a competition that challenges graduate students to devise a comprehensive design and development plan for a site in an urban area. The four teams include students from Columbia University, Cornell University, Pratt Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Cincinnati.

In this year’s competition, students were asked for creative ideas for an area in midtown Miami, split between the Wynwood and Edgewater neighborhoods. Participants evaluated the potential to create a thriving, mixed-use neighborhood around a commuter train station along the Florida East Coast Railway. The brief asked students to address housing affordability, sustainability, and resilience in their proposals. The competition, which began January 13, simulates an actual design, planning, and development scenario, and reflects Miami’s vision to reduce congestion and become more resilient by encouraging walkable neighborhoods around transit nodes. The four teams will now advance to the final round of the competition in April, where they will compete for a $50,000 prize.

The finalists are as follows:

  • Cubikko from Cornell University and Columbia University (contestants Jing Cheng, Lijia Zhu, Oscar Portillo, and Yu Wu from Cornell University with Guangwei Ren from Columbia University): Cubikko is a mixed-use and transit-oriented development that will connect the diverse communities of Wynwood, Edgewater, and Midtown, while enhancing design culture and diversity, and mixed-income communal living to celebrate the vitality and diversity of the city of Miami.
  • La Mezcla from Columbia University and the Pratt Institute (contestants Jonathan Hong, Matea Kulusic, and Pavel Petrov from Columbia University with Duane Martinez and Matthew Mitchell from Pratt Institute): La Mezcla is designed around three pillars: ecology, community, and economy. This Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum, mixed-use development proposal creates an environmentally sustainable community that remains relevant through ensuing climate change. The development seeks to bring together the socioeconomic diversity that exists between Wynwood and Edgewater despite the physical and perceived barrier on the site.
  • Rock Ridge from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (contestants Carl Hedman, Drew Morrison, Kecheng Huang, Kristopher Steele, and Stephanie Peña): Rock Ridge is a community that redefines resilience. Located on the literal “rock ridge” of Florida, the relative high point of the flat Florida coast, the proposal is designed as a physical and metaphorical place of refuge to create social resilience, where people of different incomes and ages can thrive. On-site transit, medical services, mixed-income housing, and job opportunities create a place built to endure.
  • The Lifeline from the University of Cincinnati (contestants Caroline Errico, Christian Umbach, Robert Peebles, Stacy Felchner, and Todd Funkhouser): The LIFELINE supports the life of midtown Miami—connecting the cultural life of Wynwood, the Design District, and Miami Beach, while sustaining life through resilience and equity. The LIFELINE integrates a dense, mixed-use district with a cultural corridor on top of a new Tri-Rail station and a food distribution hub to create a sense of place throughout the community.

The finalists were chosen from 113 entries by a jury of leading ULI members representing a broad variety of real estate disciplines. This year, teams were formed from 56 different university campuses in the United States and Canada, including 21 multicampus teams.

ULI Trustee and ULI Foundation Governor Richard M. Gollis, chair of the 2020 ULI Hines jury, pointed to the interdisciplinary nature of the competition and how the finalists were able to incorporate the different disciplines in only 15 days following receipt of the competition briefing materials. “Every year, the quality of the submissions gets better and better,” said Gollis, cofounder and principal of the Concord Group. “The thinking that’s going into these plans is reflecting increasingly sophisticated approaches to the urban challenges. Ultimately, the jury was looking at whether the whole approach was viable, from the vision statement and design to financial viability.”

Nine entries received honorable mention recognition: WEcreate from Columbia University; the Archive from Texas A&M University; Health on Higher Ground from Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology); Living Rooms from Georgia Tech; We+ from the University of Pennsylvania; Los Tres Enlances from the University of Texas at Austin; the Urban Canopy from the University of Pennsylvania; La Plaza Civica from the University of Texas at Austin; and Levels from the Ohio State University.

During the last phase of the competition, the finalist teams will have the opportunity to expand their original projects and provide more detail for their plans. One member of each finalist team will receive an all-expenses-paid tour of the Miami site and all team members receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the finals in April. At the finals, each team will rehearse their presentations in front of a jury of local ULI members on April 6 and then present their schemes in-person to the competition jury during a public forum in Miami on April 7. The winning team will receive a $50,000 prize, with $5,000 of the total going to the university or universities the team represents. Each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000.

The competition jury consists of renowned experts from diverse backgrounds in real estate and land use. In addition to Gollis, the jury chairman, members of the jury are as follows: Kim Abreu, senior vice president, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Coral Gables, Florida; Jorge Garcia, chief executive officer, Garcia Stromberg (GS4 Studios), West Palm Beach, Florida; Suzette Goldstein, director of planning, HOK, Washington, D.C.; Jose Gonzalez, executive vice president, business development, Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. Miami, Florida; Dave Howerton, chairman, Hart Howerton, San Francisco, California; Manisha Kaul, associate, Design Workshop, Chicago, Illinois; Ellen Lou, director of urban design and planning, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, San Francisco, California; Jenni Morejon, president and chief executive officer, Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Stephen P. Navarro, president and chief executive officer, the Furman Co. Inc., Greenville, South Carolina; Brad Power, community development director, city of Englewood, Colorado; and Diana Reid, real estate banking executive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The ULI Hines Student Competition was created with a generous endowment from longtime ULI leader Gerald Hines, founder of the Hines real estate organization. The program is part of an ongoing ULI effort to raise interest among young people in creating better communities and improving urban development patterns, as well as increase awareness among students of the need for interdisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges. The competition encourages cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design, and development of sustainable communities—among future land use professionals and allied professions.

The competition recently expanded to ULI’s EMEA Region after years as a popular offering in North America.