Graduate Student Teams Challenged to Design Mixed-Income, Mixed-Use Neighborhood in Downtown Oakland

An area in the Old Oakland neighborhood in downtown Oakland, California, will be the study site for the 20th annual ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. An educational initiative open to graduate-level students, the ULI Hines Student Competition is an exercise to encourage innovative ideas and cross-disciplinary collaboration and provides an opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development program for an existing large-scale urban site.

In 2022, 97 teams representing 51 universities in the United States, Canada, China, the Netherlands, and Egypt registered to compete, including 29 teams with students from more than one university. The team with the winning proposal will receive $50,000, of which $5,000 goes to the university or universities the team represents. Each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000.

The competition is a creative exercise simulating a real-world design, planning, and development scenario in the host city, and asks students to consider issues of housing affordability, equity, neighborhood services, connectivity, sustainability, and resilience. Participants will have access to relevant industry tools to complete their proposals, including ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Business Analyst, ArcGIS StoryMaps, and ArcGIS Urban from esri and high-resolution 3D mesh of the site from Nearmap.

The first round of the competition will begin on January 10 and run until January 24. During this round, participants will work in teams of five to submit one proposal per team on how to create a thriving, mixed-use development on the site. This year, the student proposals must reflect a vision for Oakland’s downtown as a dynamic regional hub that welcomes the entire community.

By late February, a jury of ULI members who are experts in real estate, land use, and design will select four finalist teams. During the second round of the competition, the four finalist teams will expand their original proposals. The teams will present their revised proposal twice: first to a panel of local experts in March, and then to the jury during the finale in April.

“We are thrilled to bring the 2022 ULI Hines Student Competition to Oakland – it’s a town with significant cultural richness and opportunity,” said Eric Tao, chair of ULI San Francisco. “I got my start in development with my first project in Uptown Oakland 20-years ago, and by looking to the future, I’m excited to see all the new ideas this competition brings to the forefront for re-energizing this area of downtown as a part of Oakland’s broader cultural and economic landscape for all to enjoy.”

“For 20 years, the ULI Hines Student Competition has helped shape aspiring city builders and inform how young people think about growing and revitalizing our communities,” said Cindy Chance, executive vice president of ULI Learning & Product Councils. “This is an opportunity for students to learn from industry professionals, showcase their work, and provide a glimpse into the future of planning, design, and development. We are grateful to the many ULI members who are lending their time and years of expertise to guide and mentor this year’s teams.”

The competition encourages cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design, and development of great places—among future real estate professionals and the many allied professions. Teams must be multidisciplinary, consisting of five students representing at least three different disciplines, including real estate development, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, urban design, finance, historic preservation, engineering, and law.

The competition allows each team 15 days to create a proposal that illustrates innovative approaches to five general elements: 1) planning context and analysis, 2) a master land use plan, 3) urban design, 4) site-specific illustrations of new development, and 5) development schedule and finances. Prior to the competition, participants receive project briefing materials, including a comprehensive statement of the challenge, background information on the site, market information, relevant existing design proposals, and site maps and photos.

The competition is funded through an endowment from Gerald D. Hines, chairman and founder of the global Hines real estate organization and a recipient of the 2002 ULI Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. A legend in the real estate industry, Hines was widely known as a leader who pioneered the use of high-quality planning and architecture as a marketable feature of development in office, residential, and mixed-use projects. Since the first competition in 2003, more than 10,250 students on over 2,050 teams have participated, including 380 students who have made it to the finals.

For more information on the ULI Hines Student Competition, visit