Harvard Team Wins 2016 ULI Hines Student Competition

A team representing Harvard University won the $50,000 grand prize in the 2016 ULI Hines Competition for graduate students with its comprehensive design and development program for a site in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia.

From left: Gerald Hines, Caroline Filice Smith, Chris Merritt, Stephany Lin, Jonathan Andrews and Benjamin Perdomo

From left: Gerald Hines, Caroline Filice Smith, Chris Merritt, Stephany Lin, Jonathan Andrews and Benjamin Perdomo

The ULI Hines Competition—now in its 14th year—is part of the Institute’s ongoing effort to raise interest among young people in creating better communities, improving development patterns, and increasing awareness of the need for multidisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges.

The 2016 competition challenged multidisciplinary teams of graduate students to propose ideas for transforming the transitional site and complete the vision for Midtown Atlanta as a thriving, sustainable, mixed-use, walkable, and transit-accessible neighborhood. The exercise included taking advantage of the site’s proximity to downtown and Technology Square, its adjacency to Peachtree Street and public transportation, and its strong regional access. The competition is designed as an exercise; there is no intention that the students’ plans will be implemented as part of any revitalization of the site.

The Harvard team ousted another team from Harvard University, one from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and one from the University of Miami.

The winning team received $50,000; each of the remaining three finalist teams received $10,000. The announcement was made at the competition’s conclusion on April 7 in Atlanta. This year, 131 teams comprising 655 students from 59 universities participated in the first round of the competition.

The winning Harvard team was coached by faculty adviser Alex Krieger, professor in practice of urban design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Team members were Jonathan Andrews, Master of Landscape Architecture; Chris Merritt, Master of Landscape Architecture: Stephany Lin, Master of Urban Planning: Benjamin Perdomo, Master in Design Real Estate and the Built Environment; and Caroline Filice Smith, Master of Architecture in Urban Design.

Their proposal–“The Midtown Beat”–capitalized on the district’s most defining “beats” of innovation, culture, and health. The jury noted the team’s excellence in presentation, outline of phasing, conversion of Spring Street to a two-way vehicular passage, and a thorough overview of financial structuring. The design connects icons such as the Fox Theater, All Saints’ Church, and the Varsity with new cultural destinations through vibrant public spaces. It leverages momentum in various sectors to create new office spaces for startups and established institutions to encourage collaboration. In addition, it creates a lively network of plazas, squares, courtyards, and green streets that helps connect it to the rest of Atlanta.

The other finalist teams and development schemes were:

  • Georgia Institute of Technology: “Stage Street – Breaking the Fourth Wall” is a differentiated, market-feasible program that capitalizes on a site positioned at the center of the city’s major neighborhoods while embracing an entertainment culture. Stage Street offers an integrated, mixed-use, mixed-income program with a pedestrian orientation and social spaces to help Atlantans break the fourth wall of culture by stepping out of their private spaces and onto the stage of a shared Midtown experience.
  • Harvard University: “Converge ATL” weaves together a hybrid-urban landscape that increases value for all real estate blocks in Midtown Atlanta by integrating the disparate city blocks separated by Interstate 85. Four distinct elements – Bridge Plaza, Urban Blocks, Cultural Wedge, and Tech Wedge – stitch together Midtown to create maximum value by exposing all buildings to open public space.
  • University of Miami: “Matrix Park” is a multi-phased mixed-use development project that incorporates uses and activities that promote the culture of the area as the premiere tech hub of the Southeast. By embracing an all-encompassing design that blends into the landscape, the design reinforces and activates the physical fabric of the area. As a major urban infill junction, Matrix Park uses open and accessible urban green space to promote interconnectivity with the neighboring components.

The competition jury consisted of renowned experts from diverse backgrounds in real estate development, including developers, brokers, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, urban planners, and policy officials. Led by jury chairman Tara Carter Hernandez, president of JCH Development in New Orleans, members of the jury were: Brian Berry, president, Oak Point Investors, McLean, Virginia; Constance Callahan, first vice president of SunTrust Community Capital, Atlanta; Jo Ann Chitty, senior vice president, Selig Enterprises, Inc., Atlanta; Dennis Dornan, studio director of urban design, Perkins+Will, San Francisco; Melissa Frawley, senior vice president and Atlanta regional manager of the Commercial Real Estate Group, Wells Fargo Bank, Atlanta; Kyrus L. Freeman, partner, Holland & Knight, Washington, D.C.; Matthew Hopkins, director of architecture and sustainability, StreetSense, Bethesda, Maryland; Betsy del Monte, principal, Transform Global, Dallas; Katherine Molyson, vice president at Cousins Properties Incorporated, Atlanta; Teresa Ruiz, vice president and associate principal, SB Architects, San Francisco; and Byron Stigge, director, Level Infrastructure, New York City.

Established with a generous endowment from longtime ULI leader Gerald D. Hines, the competition strives to encourage cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design and development of sustainable communities—among future land use professionals and allied professions, such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, historic preservation, engineering, real estate development, finance, psychology and law.

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