Hines-site_1152Nashville, Tennessee’s historic Sulphur Dell neighborhood has been chosen as the site for the 12th annual Urban Land Institute Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. The ideas competition will give multidisciplinary graduate student teams the opportunity to devise a development vision for Sulphur Dell, which must be comprehensively designed and operated with all the elements necessary to promote healthy living for its residents.

Already underway, the 2014 competition is designed to simulate an actual urban planning and development scenario, with certain details changed for the purposes of the competition It is based on a hypothetical situation in which the site owner—the Sulphur Dell Development Corporation—has asked for a proposal that transforms the Sulphur Dell site. The owner’s request is made with an understanding of the market and nonmarket factors at play in building healthy places and of the value proposition of building and operating in ways that promote health. Student teams will be tasked with creating a development program that supports healthy choices by its residents and users, which can include physical activity, access to healthy food, and social interaction. According to the fictional scenario, the owner also requires that the proposal address how to build a neighborhood that is resilient to future floods.


A view of the general area for this year’s Hines Urban Design Competition (Daniel Lobo)

In addition to the guidelines stipulated by the site owner, teams must be conscious of other stakeholders. In the surrounding area, there are a number of either historic or new developments that are not intended to be redeveloped. Students must determine how best to integrate those existing sites, while exploiting their assets in order to create more value for their proposed site. In addition, the competition assumes that the city of Nashville would like the area to incorporate transportation systems, a broad resilience strategy, and elements that would support future health-focused community design. In the scenario, the city wants the project to serve as a model initiative for future developments and work with smaller parcel owners to develop a common strategy for building healthy places.

Though based on a hypothetical situation, the 2014 Hines Competition addresses the city’s desire to redevelop the broader Sulphur Dell area so that it attracts investment and generates value for individual property owners, city residents, and the greater region. In the 2007 Downtown Community Plan, the Sulphur Dell downtown neighborhood was identified as a location envisioned to become a mixed-use area that will include residential, office, and commercial uses.


A view from the Sulphur Dell area looking back at downtown Nashville. (Daniel Lobo)

The study area, historically known as Sulphur Dell, is positioned north of downtown Nashville and the Tennessee State Capitol. It is bordered on the west by Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, on the north by Jefferson Street, on the east by the Cumberland River, and on the south by the James Robertson Parkway. From 1870 to 1963, Sulphur Dell was home to Nashville’s professional baseball team. In addition, both minor league and Negro League teams have played in the neighborhood since the 1860s. Currently, there are plans to construct a new ballpark for the Nashville Sounds minor league and AAA baseball team on the former site. This site has also seen several natural disasters, most recently the May 2010 flood that caused severe damage to downtown Nashville. Sulphur Dell has been the site of recurrent floods, with the former stadium known for flooding during lesser weather events.

A $50,000 prize will be awarded to the winning team, with $5,000 of the total going to the team’s school. Each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000. This year, applications were submitted from 180 teams representing 72 universities in the United States and Canada, with 900 students participating in total. Since 2003, the year the first competition was held, nearly 5,500 students on more than 1,000 teams have participated, representing U.S. and Canadian schools.

For more information on the ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition, visit: http://udcompetition.org.