Joint Team Wins the 2013 ULI Hines Student Urban Design Competition

A joint team of graduate students representing Kansas State University, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and the University of Kansas has been selected as the winner of the 2013 Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. This unique three-university team took the $50,000 top prize with their proposed long-term development plan for a downtown Minneapolis site adjacent to the new Minnesota Vikings Stadium location.

The winning student team edged out other finalist teams from Harvard University, Yale University, and a joint team from Ball State University and Purdue University. In total, 790 students representing 70 universities in the United States and Canada participated in the competition’s 2013 cycle. The winning team made it to the competition’s final round after advancing from an initial round that included a field of 149 team proposals

“It was a tremendous experience in terms of collaboration and to test ourselves against some of the best schools,” said Kevin Cunningham, a Kansas State University team member pursuing a master of landscape architecture. “One of the strengths of our team was how well we collaborated amongst ourselves, especially when we were meeting each other for the first time back in the fall. We really wanted to learn from each other and grow as young professionals throughout the competition. It was great to represent Kansas State University and the entire region in a project that turned out to be successful.”

This year’s ideas competition challenged interdisciplinary student teams to create a practical and workable scheme for a section of Downtown East. The competition was based on a hypothetical scenario in which two property owners had entered into an agreement in which they evaluated the benefits and financial possibilities of combining their parcels. The owners’ properties, largely used as surface parking lots, were analyzed to determine if the parcels could be redeveloped or sold as one large development site. In the scenario, the city of Minneapolis, eager to see this section of downtown grow into a neighborhood and regional destination, provided an incentive for these property owners to redevelop, albeit with strings attached: the city would construct a 500-space parking structure and provide $600,000 for public space through tax incentives. As a condition, the city also requested that the new development lease at least 100 of these spaces at a rate of $3,000 per space annually to serve the development for ten years. Additionally, the city asked that the development scheme include affordable housing and begin to connect Downtown East with Elliot Park to the south and Mill District to the north.

While based on a fictional situation, the winning proposal entitled “The Armory,” tackles city and local stakeholders’ desire to reinvent Downtown East as interest builds in anticipation of the new stadium. This design provides a new vision for Downtown East Minneapolis that transforms a rigid, undesirable economic condition of surface parking and billboards into a dynamic, livable urban district. In this proposal, the Armory – currently an underused historic structure – becomes the symbol of identity and place for this revitalized area. Armory Green emerges as the city’s first iconic open space that integrates the Armory building, the Skyway system, a subterranean parking ramp, and a distinct retail experience. Perhaps most importantly, the design is grounded in the market realities of Minneapolis with strategies that capitalize on concurrent activity to create a desirable place to live in each phase.

In addition to Cunningham, other team members of the “The Armory” design proposal included Lauren Brown, master of architecture, University of Kansas; Kylie Harper, master of landscape architecture, Kansas State University; Derek Hoetmer, master of landscape architecture, Kansas State University; and Tyler Knott, master of business administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jason Brody, assistant professor of regional and community planning at Kansas State University’s College of Architecture, Planning and Design served as the team’s advisor.

“The jury was delighted by the strength of the ‘final four’ proposals; the ability to create a sense of place, phase and finance the development appropriately; incorporate elements of sustainability as well as environmental enhancements; and seize on revenue generation opportunities,” said Jury Chairman Bart Harvey, former chairman and chief executive officer of Enterprise Partners in Baltimore, Md. “The winning team composed from three different disciplines and three different universities designed and presented so seamlessly and the jury evidenced first-hand the best of interdisciplinary functionality and thinking that Gerry Hines had sought in this competition.”

The development schemes from the other three teams in the final competition:

  • Ball State University/Purdue University: “Portland Avenue,” envisioned as a realistic mixed-use residential main street, offers a desirable new identity for Downtown East, with unique dining, shopping, living, and event opportunities. Featuring public plazas, retail spaces, a transit line, and hotel, Portland Avenue becomes the central hub of social and economic activity. It also transforms into an auxiliary event space for game days and other celebrations and creates a system of individually programmed open spaces facilitates outdoor social and cultural interaction.
  • Harvard University: “Connec+ Minneapolis” fills the void of Downtown East by connecting residential adjacencies through the transformation of barren streets into activated, sustainable and inviting thoroughfares while connecting pedestrian, bike and light rail networks, embedding future density into Downtown Minneapolis. The proposal centers on the transformation of Portland Avenue into a linear park that connects the Mississippi River to a reinvented Armory District, repurposing The Armory as a year-round attraction. Through connectivity, comfort and ecology, Connec+ Minneapolis creates a new district in Downtown East to live, work, and experience.
  • Yale University: “MinneDi,” a play off of Minneapolis’ nickname as the Mini-Apple, establishes the new Minneapolis Millennial Innovation District that transforms the former Downtown East. Innovation in MinneDi cuts across all aspects of life to generate jobs as well as to create an attractive and desirable place to live and visit. The development creates a new pedestrian and cyclist friendly neighborhood centered on public transit, a farmer’s market and central green; and it builds a business incubator to link universities and businesses with creative and entrepreneurial Minneapolitans.

In addition to Harvey, the jury of renowned land use planning and real estate finance professionals included: Stuart Ackerberg, chief executive officer, The Ackerberg Group, Minneapolis, Minn.; Gerdo Aquino, president, SWA Group, Los Angeles, Calif.; John Breitinger, vice-president of investment and development, United Properties, Minneapolis, Minn.; Andre Brumfield, director of Midwest Region, planning and urban design, Gensler, Chicago, Ill.; Robert Engstrom, president, Robert Engstrom Companies, Bloomington, Minn.; Todd Mead, principal, Civitas, Denver, Colo.; Alexander Nyhan, development manager, Forest City, Washington, D.C.; Beth Pfeifer, director of development, the Cornerstone Group, Bloomington, Minn.; Pablo Vaggione, director, Design Convergence, Madrid, Spain; Tim Van Meter, partner, Van Meter, Williams, Pollack LLP, Denver, Colo.; and Barbara Wilks, partner, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, New York, N.Y.

For more information on the ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition, visit: or contact: Robert Krueger at 1-202-624-7051.


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