A team composed of students from three Toronto-area universities—Ryerson University, York University, and University of Toronto—has taken top honors in the 2021 ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition with its redevelopment plan for a Kansas City, Missouri, site. The ideas contest 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 winning team were awarded a prize of $50,000 at the conclusion of the competition April 8.

The remaining three finalist teams—representing the Georgia Institute of Technology; University of Houston, Pennsylvania State University, and Columbia University in the City of New York; and the University of California, Berkeley—each will receive $10,000.

The final round of the competition normally takes place in the city containing the study site, but this year the competition was fully virtual. On March 19, the finalist teams rehearsed their proposals and received feedback from six experts and Kansas City–based ULI members. On April 8, they presented their plans virtually to a 16-member jury of ULI members from around the country.

This year’s competition asked students for proposals to create a thriving mixed-use, mixed-income area in the East Village neighborhood in downtown Kansas City. The challenge brief asked the students to address housing affordability, equity, transportation, mobility, sustainability, and resilience in their proposals.

The four finalist teams were chosen from 105 entries by a jury of 16 leading ULI members representing a broad variety of real estate and related disciplines. Students formed teams representing 61 universities in the United States, Canada, and Singapore, including 31 teams with students from more than one university.

“On behalf of ULI, I want to congratulate the winners and finalists of the 2021 ULI Hines Competition,” said W. Edward Walter, ULI global chief executive officer. “I commend them for the creativity and hard work that got them to the final stage of this competition. I also want to thank our jury members, who have devoted countless hours of their own time to reviewing and debating the proposals put before them. We welcome all of the competitors to ULI’s network of problem solvers and thought leaders, and I can’t wait to see their impact on the built environment of the future.”

The winning plan from the Toronto-based team, called Fusion, fused the East Village, Paseo West, and Kansas City’s downtown core. The team created a welcoming and affordable mixed-use development where anyone who wishes to call it home can do so. Designed around two key pillars, connectivity and resilience, this LEED neighborhood embodied inclusive and sustainable growth within Kansas City.

Members of the Fusion team are Frances Grout-Brown and Leorah Klein, Ryerson University; Yanlin Zhou, York University; and Ruotian Tan and Chenyi Xu, University of Toronto.

“Reflecting on this experience in its entirety, it’s surreal how much we’ve learned along the way,” the team said in a statement. “We started the competition with a shared vision to create an inclusive, sustainable, and welcoming neighborhood that felt uniquely Kansas City. Though each member of the team brought different skills to the table, we were strongly aligned in our aspirations for the site and were proud to present our proposal rooted in enabling physical and social connectivity and achieving economic and environmental resilience.”

“The 2021 ULI Hines Student Competition finalists raised the level of creative thinking and technical execution delivered in the competition,” said jury chair Diana Reid. “This was a complicated study area and a challenging brief. It required a bold vision for what the future could be, balancing economic impact, environmental sustainability, enhanced mobility, and social equity.

“Each of the finalists delivered catalytic urban plans. Fusion stood out as it pushed a new paradigm for urban neighborhood based on the strong regional legacy of agriculture. The master plan enabled economic resilience through small-scale food growth and distribution, local culinary incubation, and research-driven employment opportunities. Fusion’s food-based approach, paired with a focus on inclusive and sustainable growth, created the catalytic vision of a new urban neighborhood, including an intergenerational approach, strong pedestrian and multimodal transit, and connectivity throughout the site.”

The ULI Hines Student Competition was created with a generous endowment from longtime ULI leader Gerald Hines, founder of the Hines real estate organization. The program is part of an ongoing ULI effort to raise interest among young people in creating better communities and improving urban development patterns. The competition encourages cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design, and development of sustainable communities—among future land use professionals and allied professions. More information about the 2021 competition is available online.

The other three finalist teams and their development plans are:

  • Cattlyst: Georgia Institute of Technology—Erin Heidelberger, Akhilesh Dhurkunde, Huangzhe Zhao, Robin Cornel, and Alex Sovchen.
  • EAVIRO District Development Plan: University of Houston, Pennsylvania State University, and Columbia University in the City of New York—Jie Yang, Hillary Telegrafo, and Jose Medina from the University of Houston; Yiru Zhang from Penn State; and Wenjuan Li from Columbia.
  • Homebase: University of California, Berkeley—Alice An, Romi Bhatia, Elliot Kwon, Tara Singh, and Wayne Kim.

The competition jury consists of experts from diverse backgrounds in commercial real estate, land use, and design. In addition to Reid, jury members were Randy Bredar, senior vice president, JE Dunn Construction, Kansas City, Missouri; Lynn Carlton, vice president, regional planning, HOK, Kansas City, Missouri; Fernando Costa, assistant city manager, city of Fort Worth, Texas; John Gilmore, managing director, Walker & Dunlop, New York City; Kona Gray, principal, EDSA, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Veronica Hackett, principal, the Clarett Group, New York City; Faron A. Hill, founder and president, Peregrine Oak, Atlanta; Steve Kenat, principal, GBBN, Cincinnati; Jill McCarthy, senior vice president, Kansas City Area Development Council, Kansas City, Missouri; Susan Meaney, senior adviser, KSL Capital Partners, San Francisco; Joe Perry, vice president, Port KC, Kansas City, Missouri; Geeti Silwal, principal, Perkins&Will, San Francisco; Amy Slattery, founder and chief executive officer, Odimo, Kansas City, Missouri; Lauren Standish, vice president, HGOR, Atlanta; and Margaret Wylde, chief executive officer, ProMatura Group, Oxford, Mississippi.