Rendering of The Knot in North Charleston, South Carolina.

A redevelopment plan for a North Charleston, South Carolina, site presented by a team of Harvard University students has taken top honors in the 21st annual ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. The ideas contest provides graduate students the opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development scheme for a large-scale site in an urban area. Members of the winning team were awarded a prize of $50,000 at the conclusion of the competition on April 6, with $5,000 of the total going to Harvard University. The remaining three finalist teams, with representatives from Harvard University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Virginia will each receive $10,000.

In March, the students toured the competition site, rehearsed their proposals, and received feedback from local ULI members. On April 6, they presented their plans in person to a 15-person jury of ULI members from across the country.

This year’s competition asked students for proposals to create a vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income area in North Charleston, S.C. The challenge brief asked the students to address issues of equity, housing affordability, access to neighborhood services, sustainability, and connectivity to surrounding communities.

At left, ULI Global CEO Ron Pressman and ULI Americas CEO Gwyneth Jones Coté celebrate with the winning team. (Hines)

The four teams that advanced to the final round of the competition were chosen from 84 entries by a jury of 15 leading ULI members. This year, students formed teams representing 39 universities in the United States, Canada, and India, including twelve teams with students from more than one university. More information about the four finalists announced in February can be found here.

“Each year, this event gives future industry leaders an unparalleled opportunity to learn from experts and craft their own strategies for revitalizing, improving, and making their own unique mark in the built environment,” said ULI Americas President Gwyneth Jones Cote. “I would like to congratulate all our competitors, who exhibited an admirable passion and curiosity for design, planning, and development. I also want to thank our jury members and Jury Chair Geeti, whose dedication and generosity made this contest possible and demonstrates the mentorship that enables ULI to fulfill its mission of educating the next generation of leaders.”

“This year’s competition challenged students to address the most pressing development issues in North Charleston,” said Hines Senior Managing Director Vikram Mehra. “The passion, creativity, and skill of each team were apparent in the thoughtfully planned, market responsive, and technically proficient solutions proposed. The high-quality graphics, diverse approaches, and aspirational design were impressive to see.”

The winning plan from Harvard University, titled Knot Charleston, is a vision for the new downtown of North Charleston designed to address challenges posed by the post-COVID environment, social inequality, and climate change. Synthesizing three core values of resilience, economy, and community, this mixed-use development captures the city’s unique context to create a regional destination, generate employment powerhouse for local business, and build a well-connected, affordable, and enriching place to live for generations.

The team was comprised of Youngsoo Yang, Tomas Quaglia, Ben Parker, Emily Johansen, and Rachaya Wattanasirichaigoon, all representing Harvard University.

“The ULI Hines Competition was an incredible opportunity for us to explore how real estate and urban design can address key challenges in our competition site and cities across the country,” said the team in a statement. “This three-month journey has been an unforgettable experience for our team and the highlight of our academic careers. We are grateful to ULI and Hines for providing this platform and excited to continue our commitment to a healthier and more equitable built environment.”

“Of the many creative solutions offered, Knot Charleston ultimately had the most exemplary financials coupled with thoughtful phasing and a well-conceived mix of industrial and residential scales,” said Jury Chair Geeti Silwal. “Not only did their proposal offer ample access points to the water throughout the site, the team also told an effective story in their presentation that conveyed their awareness of the local maritime history, the city itself, and the community surrounding the site. I’m so appreciative to our jury for all the time they invested in considering the multitude of design and financial components from each team and to all the students who participated.”

The ULI Hines Student Competition was created with a generous endowment from long-time 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. 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 jury consists of renowned experts from diverse backgrounds in commercial real estate, land use, and design. In addition to Chair Geeti Silwal, members of the jury include Alex Fraser, managing director at RCB Development in Charleston, S.C.; Bina Bhattacharyya, partner at RAMSA in New York; Charlie Long, principal at Junction Properties LLC in Oakland, Calif.; Christina Blackwell, senior vice president and Houston commercial real estate manager at First Horizon Bank; Jeff Baxter, partner at Cityvolve LLC in North Charleston, S.C.; Karen Horstmann, investor, New York; Miller Harper, managing partner at East West Partners in Charleston, S.C.; Riki Nishimura, principal at Populous in San Francisco; Rod Roche, partner at G&M Realty Ventures LLC in Oakland, Calif.; Sofia Song, global cities lead at Gensler in New York; Steve Dudash, director, special projects at Navy Yard in North Charleston, S.C.; Terence Cooper, director of investments at Foxgate Capital in Houston; Todd Richardson, principal at Synchronicity in Charleston, S.C.; and Tom Leader, founding principal at TLS Landscape Architecture in Berkeley, Calif.