UMD Students Win 2015 ULI Hines Competition

UMD students take first place for second consecutive year at

the Super Bowl of Real Estate Development competitions

The winning team representing the University of

Maryland. Pictured, from left to right, are

Sebastian Dern, Ashley Grzywa, Patrick Reed,

Sofia Weller, and Daniel Moreno-Holt.

An interdisciplinary team from the University of Maryland has won the 2015 ULI Hines Case Competition. The UMD team of five graduate students – representing architecture, urban planning and real estate development – won over an international jury of experts with their development plan for the Tulane/Gavier and Iberville neighborhoods of New Orleans. UMD's winning team includes (from left above) Sebastian Dern (Real Estate Development)), Ashley Grzywa (Architecture), Daniel Moreno-Holt (Architecture&Development), Patrick Reed (Planning) and Sophia Weller (Architecture).

“It is an honor to win this competition,” said Sophia Weller, a graduate student studying architecture at UMD. “It feels like we are part of something much bigger. ULI Hines is considered the Super Bowl of interdisciplinary design competitions. I think we all feel truly humbled by the experience.”

This is the second consecutive year that a team from UMD has clinched the ULI/Hines Competition, which is the largest and most competitive student development and design competition in the world, with more than 150 teams competing from some of the most prestigious universities in the country. ULI announced UMD’s win this week in New Orleans at the competition conclusion. The team will go home with a $50,000 prize.

The competition demands a variety of expertise to navigate complex zoning codes, understand investment opportunities, examine community, site challenges and develop exciting yet realistic urban design solutions that are financially viable. Margaret Mcfarland, Clinical Profssor and Director of the Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development says, "the fact all the students are studying in one school and have an appareciation and basic understanding of all the disciplines it takes to do Master Planning and Development are the key to the Maryland success. The real estate students know the basics of design and the design and planning students have basic understanding of the financial aspects of a major redevelopment."

This year’s competition revolved around the urban site of the Tulane/Gavier and Iberville neighborhoods of New Orleans. ULI challenged teams to create a proposal that furthers the city’s goals of creating vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods by capitalizing on the culture and location of the Tulane/Gravier neighborhood, while fostering economic growth, tourism and place through thoughtful design.

Maryland’s entry, entitled “The Crossing,” took an unconventional approach to the site that set itself apart from the competition. The site offers several challenges, including the elevated I-10 highway that runs parallel to a potential retail street and an eight-lane off-ramp that separates an existing park from the city’s proposed greenway. To offer greater visibility for retail, the team located the main retail street one block over from the highway, a bold but important move that offers two-sided frontage and pulls the site out of the shadow of the I-10. Re-locating the monstrous off-ramp—referred to by team members as a “scar” across the site—and replacing the linear space under the highway with a green, recreational space connects Louis Armstrong Park with the city’s future greenway and beyond. The new configuration connects neighborhood retail/residential with the park and offers seamless access to the French Quarter and the neighboring medical sector.

“There have been a lot of studies conducted on this area of New Orleans,” said Patrick Reed, a UMD graduate student in the Urban Studies and Planning Program. “The majority of the scenarios we studied had retail fronts facing Clayborne Avenue, which is the street under the highway. In a lot of ways, the other teams took some safe moves by saying ‘they’ve studied this, they want to put it there, we’ll do what they think is best,’ where we didn’t really necessarily feel constrained by what was already done.”

The team’s two real estate graduate students—Daniel Moreno-Holt and Sebastian Dern—offered creative yet realistic financial feasibility that were key to the team’s success. Sebastian Dern, who came to Maryland to study after hearing of the 2014 Maryland team winning the ULI Hines competition, says that the key he sees is that "The real estate students are educated in the complexities of public private partnerships, and sophistiacted financing that is required, and thus are uniquely prepared to support creative, but financially viable, solutions for an urban core neighborhood." “Sebastian and Dan were extremely creative in finding ways to fund our crazy ideas,” added Weller.

In the past eight years, the University of Maryland has reached the ULI Hines finals four times, won once (2014) and received one honorable mention.

Read ULI’s statement here.

The team’s advisors are Professor Matthew Bell, FAIA and Dr. Margaret McFarland, JD, Director of the Master of Real Estate Development Program.


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