UT Austin Students Win National Urban Design Competition

UT Austin urban design team

A team from The University of Texas at Austin recently received top honors in the 2017 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Student Competition in Chicago. Composed of students from the School of Architecture and McCombs School of Business, the team was awarded $50,000 for their forward-looking redevelopment plan for a mixed-use Chicago site.

An ideas contest for graduate students, the ULI Hines Competition is designed to simulate an urban planning and development scenario. Participating teams have 15 days to design and submit a comprehensive master plan proposal for a large-scale urban site in the United States. The proposal must include presentation boards with site plans, renderings, analytical tables and market-feasible financial data.

This is the first win for the UT Austin student team, who advanced from an initial round of 118 applications from more than 60 universities in the U.S. and Canada, and placed ahead of teams from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Université Laval in Quebec and the University of Maryland, College Park in the final round of competition.

“We are proud of our students, who all exemplified leadership, creativity and interdisciplinary innovation during this rigorous competition,” said Elizabeth Danze, interim dean of the School of Architecture. “Their work envisions and advances a more equitable, inclusive, healthy and sustainable urban environment, and serves as a model for future collaboration across the UT Austin campus and beyond.”

This year’s competition presented a hypothetical situation based on an announcement made by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2016 stating that the Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management would be relocating its headquarters. Teams were tasked with evaluating the benefits and financial possibilities of buying the Fleet Management and Facility site and potentially combining it with parcels of adjacent vacant property to redevelop or sell as one comprehensive site.

The winning proposal, “Rooted,” reimagined the site as a place for clean industry, with a vision to improve quality of life, allow for adaptive re-use in the long-term, and highlight Chicago’s iconic food culture. Recognizing that Chicago has long served as the heartland for food production, processing and distribution due to its unique location between East and West, “Rooted” created a center for food and manufacturing that ties together the city’s past, present and future.

UT Austin students designed a comfortable, environmentally conscious and lively urban space that uses durable materials and embraces initiatives such as green/living roofs, rainwater collection and a river ferry system. At the center of the proposal is a re-designed, localized food supply chain that establishes an equitable and inclusive environment conducive to building human capital. The team successfully addressed issues of affordable housing, transportation, accessibility of key resources, sustainability, pricing and absorption.

“This is a huge accomplishment for real estate endeavors at UT Austin,” said Jay Hartzell, dean of the McCombs School of Business. “Congratulations to our colleagues at the School of Architecture. This is a great example of what can be achieved when some of the top minds from different colleges on campus work together toward a common goal.”

UT Austin’s first-place team included Christopher Perkes (team leader), joint Master of Science in community and regional planning and 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 and Edna Ledesma of the School of Architecture.

The competition jury consisted of experts with 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 were Chicago-based professionals who helped provide insight into whether proposals took into consideration local cultural, economic and political issues.