ULI Indiana News

Building connections: ULI Hines Student Competition provides real-world experience

The Urban Land Institute is known for engaging multiple disciplines, promoting the responsible use of land, and creating and sustaining thriving communities. In line with that approach, ULI’s annual Hines Student Competition offers graduate students the opportunity to work on a challenging land use exercise. Teams made up of at least three disciplines have just two weeks to create a comprehensive design and development program for a large-scale site.

This year, students from the University of Indianapolis’ master of professional studies in real estate development (UIndy MPSRED) program and Ball State University’s master of urban design (BSU MUD) and master of architecture (BSU MArch) programs formed two teams to participate in the competition. Participating MUD students included Brendyn Cyrus (Team 1 Leader), Jacob Dines, Keaton Osborn (Team 2 Leader), and Nate Robert-Eze.MArch students included Sean Costello, Haneen Khader and Alyssa Wozniak. MPSRED students included Bryan Conn and Anthony Heygood.

While the Indiana team didn’t win the competition, the students were rewarded in several other ways.

The redevelopment scenario

This year’s competition was close to home, calling for redevelopment ideas for a Cincinnati site that includes portions of a highway, the central business district, and the central riverfront. Consistent with Cincinnati’s vision for connecting its riverfront entertainment district, teams evaluated the potential to deck over the highway and combine it with adjacent parcels to create a sustainable, pedestrian-oriented mixed-use neighborhood. While the competition focuses on a real design, planning, and development scenario, there’s no expectation that the submitted schemes will be implemented.

A collaborative opportunity

“At UIndy, we set a goal to foster interactions between our real estate development students and design professionals,” said Eric Harvey, JD, program director, UIndy MPSRED. “We saw this as a great opportunity to collaborate and build those relationships with the Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning, a powerhouse when it comes to design.”

“The Hines Competition is one of the few times students get to work across disciplines on a complex project at the urban scale,” said Justin Ferguson, PhD, AIA, NOMA, assistant dean and director, BSU MUD. “They focus on a real-world scenario alongside other students they may not know, and they must quickly learn to size up each other’s skills, actively engage, collaborate, share, and rely on each other to develop a shared vision. There are many moving pieces, not only with the project’s planning, development, and design elements, but also at the team-level. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience the type of work they will one day be a part of and potentially lead.”

Key takeaways

The experience of participating in the Hines Competition provided multiple takeaways for the students.

Anthony Heygood, UIndy MPSRED student, said it opened his eyes to the amount of detail that goes into building a major project for a city. “The possibilities are numerous, but how the pieces fit within reason and financial limits are enormous barriers,” he said. “I enjoyed the team atmosphere and listening to students from fields of study different than mine to understand their processes and challenges. It made me push myself to listen, learn, and be adaptable for the common goal of success.”

“I learned that we can do much more than we think we can within a short period of time,” said Nate Robert-Eze, BSU MUD student. “Sometimes we doubted ourselves and didn’t think we would be able to finish everything, but we ended up surprising ourselves. I enjoyed being able to push myself within the structure and time constraints and to compete with some of the highest ranked schools in the nation. It really drove me to put out my best work.”

“The exercise helped me look at design from a planning point of view,” said Alyssa Wozniak, BSU MArch student. “Approaching a design challenge from a planner’s perspective gave me insights into the world of design on a more holistic scale. I also got to know some new colleagues and learned how to use Lumion, a rendering software.”

Justin and Eric witnessed the students making connections, both between concepts and with each other.

“The students were able to see, in-action, the balance of skills and expertise that comes from engaging allied professions in such collaborative work,” Justin said. “It’s not just about plugging in people with skills that you don’t have, but actually learning from others and building up your own experience. The cross-pollination of skills and respect gained for each other was exciting to observe.”

“The Ball State students were able to learn more about the cost issues and income that go into a pro forma, and the UIndy students’ eyes were opened to design and land use planning issues,” Eric said. “In addition to learning some things, the students established industry relationships that will be beneficial going forward.”

Preparing for what’s next  

The ULI Hines Student Competition helped students feel more prepared for what they’ll experience in the future.

“Participating in this project was beneficial to my future because we had to work together outside our discipline, representing how design teams work in the professional world,” Alyssa said. “I hope to work for a firm someday as a project manager and architect. Those two roles involve working with engineers, consultants, contractors, construction managers, and clients, so experience working with other disciplines is good practice.”

“I loved the challenge and appreciated being able to work with possible future colleagues,” Anthony said. “As the developer for my team, figuring out how all the pieces fit together was great for understanding what my job would be in the real world.”

For Nate, the competition produced a portfolio piece that will be helpful for pursuing future work opportunities. It also helped his team gain useful experience being “quicker on our feet with problem solving through design solutions.”

“This type of activity is what our students will do once they are in the profession,” Justin said. “While the MUD degree brings students together from different backgrounds, this forces them to work with students they didn’t know. For the MArch students, it helps them move beyond the perspective of one building on one site to thinking about how multiple projects and sites need to work together to address socio-cultural and financial issues at the district scale.”

“The work product these students produced in such a short period of time is incredible,” Eric said. “I was impressed with their drive, their desire to participate, and the quality of their efforts—traits that will go a long way as they progress in their careers.”

About the ULI Hines Student Competition

The ULI Hines Student Competition “is part of ULI’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 Hines Student Competition was created with a generous endowment from longtime ULI leader Gerald Hines, founder of the Hines real estate organization.

For more information, visit the ULI Hines Student Competition webpage.

– Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
ULI Communications Chair

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