A redevelopment plan for a Chicago site presented by a team from the University of Texas at Austin has taken top honors in the 2017 ULI Hines Student Competition, an ideas competition that 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 team were awarded a first-place prize of $50,000 after the conclusion of the competition. The three remaining finalist teams—from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Maryland, and the Université Laval in Quebec—were each awarded $10,000.
The 2017 competition was based on a hypothetical situation related to last year’s announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management would be relocating its headquarters from the site adjacent to the North Branch of the Chicago River. The competition’s challenge for students involved taking on the role of a master developer to create a successful bid for building a mixed-use sustainable area that benefits from adjacent synergies in the vacant property. The teams were tasked with evaluating the benefits and financial possibilities of buying the Fleet Management and Facility site, and potentially combining it with certain parcels to redevelop or sell as one comprehensive development site.
The Texas team’s winning proposal, “Rooted,” is built upon the inherent power of food culture to bring together people of diverse backgrounds in a comfortable and lively space. It recognizes that Chicago has long served as the heartland for food production, processing, and distribution due to its prime location and role as the gateway to the East and West. Through the creation of a center for food and manufacturing, a unique urban experience materializes, tying together past, present, and future. The proposal not only reimagines the localization of the food supply chain, but also creates an equitable and inclusive environment conducive to building human capital.
Competition jury chairwoman and ULI leader Teri Frankiewicz, vice president of community development at Crown Community Development in Naperville, Illinois, noted that each of the teams’ proposals reflected a highly thoughtful, innovative approach to urban planning, design, and development. The plan from the University of Texas at Austin stood out, she said, because it demonstrated the best grasp of economic, demographic, environmental, and social factors that are shaping development in Chicago. “The Texas team members not only understood the geographic constraints and benefits of the competition site, they conducted an extraordinary amount of market research about all land use types, and were well informed about issues of high importance in the city such as affordable housing,” Frankiewicz said. “When we questioned their assumptions regarding pricing and absorption, they were able to defend them beautifully.” She pointed to the proposal’s emphasis on detail (such as the relocation of an existing transit station and inclusion of a green-roofed Home Depot), its realistic capital stack, and the team’s persuasive delivery as making the University of Texas at Austin a compelling choice.
The winning team consisted of Christopher Perkes (team leader), joint master of science in community and regional planning/master of science in sustainable design; Luke Kvasnicka, master of architecture; Miles Payton, master of landscape architecture; Mason Rathe, master of business administration; Kirsten Stray-Gundersen, master of architecture; and academic advisers Simon Atkinson, professor of community and regional planning, and Edna Ledesma, lecturer, school of architecture.
The competition jury consisted of renowned experts from diverse backgrounds in real estate development. Jurors represented a strategic mix of land use professionals, including developers, architects, urban designers, urban planners, investment bankers, and financial analysts. Four of the 12 jurors, including jury chairwoman Frankiewicz, are Chicago-based professionals who helped provide insight into whether proposals take into consideration local cultural, economic, and political issues.
In addition to Frankiewicz, other members of the jury were Jo Ann Chitty, senior vice president, Selig Enterprises Inc., Atlanta; Aruna Doddapaneni, director of development, BRIDGE Housing, San Diego; Raymond Hartshorne, partner, Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, Chicago; Nila R. Leiserowitz, regional managing principal, Gensler, Chicago; Betsy del Monte, principal, Transform Global, Dallas; Rameez Munawar, financial analyst, Eastern Region of Columbia Property Trust, Washington, D.C.; Jon Pickard, principal, Pickard Chilton, New Haven, Connecticut; Michael Pitchford, president and CEO, CPDC, Silver Spring, Maryland; Kathryn L. Reynolds, founder and CEO, Vivelan Group, New Orleans; Thomas Samuels, principal, Thomas Samuels Enterprises, Chicago; and Megan Torza, partner, DTAH, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.