The Final Four of City Building: Teams from Cornell University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Maryland Advance in ULI Hines Student Competition

Students Compete for Winning Design of Toronto Site; Top Team to Receive $50,000

For more information, contact Trisha Riggs at 202-624-7086

WASHINGTON (February 22, 2018) – A graduate student team from Cornell University, two teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a team from the University of Maryland have been selected as the four finalists for the 16th annual Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Student Competition, an ideas competition that provides students the opportunity to devise a comprehensive design and development scheme for an actual, large-scale site in an urban area. The four teams are advancing to the final round of the competition in April, where they will compete for a $50,000 first place prize.

Judges review submissions at the 2018 the ULI Hines Student Competition judging, at the offices of the Urban Land Institute in downtown Washington, D.C., February 15, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)

The competition, which began January 15, is designed to simulate an actual urban planning and development scenario, and reflects developments being considered as part of the City of Toronto’s vision for reviving the neighborhoods east of its historic downtown. Participants were tasked with creating a master development plan for the redevelopment of parcels of land adjacent to the river into a thriving mixed-use community that would catalyze other development, including additional commercial, retail and residential space, and connect residential neighborhoods in the city’s northeast section to commercial neighborhoods in the southern section.

To be competitive, submissions must create a comprehensive environment that is programmed, designed, built, and operated with all the elements necessary to promote the site as an integrated part of the city with high appeal to workers, visitors and residents. Playing the role of the potential master developer, student teams must evaluate the benefits and financial possibilities of buying at least two parcels along the Don River and possibly combining them with a third parcel to redevelop as one comprehensive development site.

The finalist development schemes and team descriptions are:

  • “Montage” from Cornell University – “Montage” is a transformational mixed-use development at the junction of Toronto’s Downtown and East End neighborhoods. The project is an environmentally sustainable cultural hub that integrates cinema, creative industries, and Toronto’s park system to provide a unique outlet for expression and lifestyle. Montage embraces the future of urban transportation by providing both public transit and a thoughtful street grid that accommodates private vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. It enhances the urban fabric with distinctive plazas, tree-lined streets, and industrial facades, reminiscent of the late 19th century. Akin to a montage clipping together scenes of a film, this development augments the surrounding communities and creative thinkers of Toronto.
  • “Absorption” from the Georgia Institute of TechnologyCreating a space for regeneration, recreation, and reflection, “Absorption” is a mixed-use, transit-oriented development that seeks to transform East Toronto’s local ecology and local community into a smart, healthy, and equitable transit center. The development addresses four challenges that Toronto faces in its evolution to become one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities: a lack of ecological renewal, social equity, a vibrant economy, and authentic cultural identity.
  • “The EArl” from the Georgia Institute of Technology – “The EArl,” or Eastern Arts Link, is a neighborhood that is fueled by Toronto’s economic engine and inspired by the independent spirit of its rich tapestry of local communities. It is a vibrant cultural center where neighbors and visitors discover local art and international flavors together. The EArL unlocks opportunities for coming together. It repositions the SmartTrack/GO station, connecting it to a bold new transit hub for subway, rail and LRT. The development also links internal streets to the local grid, and forges new connections across the Don River using the historic bridge infrastructure.”
  • “Point Passage” from the University of Maryland “Point Passage” is a dynamic mixed-use community at the doorstep of the largest planned real estate development in Canada. Situated on the eastern bank of the Don River, it links Toronto’s traditional downtown to a powerful new economic, cultural and transportation hub. Thoughtful planning that unlocks the site’s natural beauty and harnesses its strategic location will help create Toronto’s next great neighborhood. Just steps from the next major North American commercial corridor in one of the world’s great financial cities, Point Passage will be a place to call home.

This year, applications were submitted by 130 teams representing nearly 60 universities in the United States and Canada. Hines Jury Chairman and longtime ULI leader Carl Weisbrod cited two factors that made the finalists’ entries stand out. “Each entry was able to tell a story and provide a value proposition that would make these approaches attractive to the public, property owners, and developers,” said Weisbrod, senior advisor at HR&A Advisors in New York City and former chairman of the New York City Planning Commission. “And, each of them demonstrated coherence in the various components, including the financials, design and programs. These two elements are what brought these four entries to the forefront.”

While there is no guarantee that any of the finalists’ entries would be considered for the redevelopment of the Toronto site, Weisbrod noted that the Hines competition has helped highlight the site’s significance in Toronto’s evolution.

Seven entries received Honorable Mention recognition:

  • “Front Porch/ Backstage” from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • “Don Ramble” from the University of Pennsylvania
  • “The Seam” from the University of Toronto
  • “Garden District” from the University of Miami
  • “Transition” from the University of Cincinnati
  • “The Fuse” from the University of Cincinnati
  • “Corktown East” from Harvard University

During the last phase of the competition, the student finalist teams will have the opportunity to expand their original schemes and provide more detail for their plans. One member of each finalist team will receive an all-expenses-paid site tour of the Toronto site (though other team members may also join the tour). Information obtained during this site visit can then be used by the finalist teams in revising their presentations. At the competition finale on April 5, finalist team members will present their schemes in-person to the competition jury during a public forum in Toronto. A $50,000 prize will be awarded to the winning team, with $5,000 of the total going to the university represented by the team. Each of the remaining three finalist teams will receive $10,000.

The competition jury consists of renowned experts from diverse backgrounds in real estate development. Jurors represent a strategic mix of land use professionals, including developers, architects, urban designers, urban planners, investment bankers and financial analysts. In addition to Jury Chairman Weisbrod, members of the jury are: Paul Bedford, chairman, Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel and former Toronto Chief City Planner, Toronto, Ontario; Robert E. Engstrom, president, Robert Engstrom Companies, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Merrie S. Frankel, president, Minerva Realty Consultants, LLC, New York, New York; Bruce Kuwabara, partner, KPMB Architects, Toronto, Ontario; Raymond C. Mikulich, managing partner and chief investment officer, Ridgeline Capital Group, New York, New York; Sharmil Modi, Modi Adventureprises, Boston, Massachusetts; Vicki R. Mullins, executive vice president/chief financial officer, Newland Real Estate Group, San Diego, California; Alex Rose, senior vice president, Continental Development Corporation, El Segundo, California; Jamie Simchik, principal, Simchik Planning and Development, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Megan Torza, partner, DTAH, Toronto, Ontario; and Leslie Woo, chief planning and development officer, Metrolinx, Toronto, Ontario.

The four jurors from Toronto are leading members of ULI Toronto, which serves nearly 1,700 ULI members in the Greater Toronto Region. Weisbrod noted that during the selection of the finalists, the locally based jurors provided valuable insights regarding the extent to which the proposals factored in local cultural and economic issues. “The representation (on the jury) from Toronto was important in helping us appreciate what was practical and what wasn’t,” he said.

The 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, as well as increase awareness among students of the need for interdisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges. The competition is strategically structured to encourage cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design, and development of sustainable communities—among future land use professionals and allied professions, such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, historic preservation, engineering, real estate development, finance, psychology, and law. It is open to graduate students who are pursuing real estate–related studies at universities in the United States and Canada, including programs in real estate development, urban planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture.

NOTE TO REPORTERS AND EDITORS: For more information or interviews related to the ULI Hines Student Competition, contact Trisha Riggs at Additional information on the participating schools and student participation demographics can be found at

About the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the institute has more than 40,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter, FacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.

About ULI Toronto

ULI Toronto is part of a global network of real estate and land development professionals with a mission to provide leadership and a forum for discussion around city building and responsible use of land and in sustaining and creating thriving communities worldwide. ULI Toronto carries forth that mission by serving the Greater Toronto Region’s public and private sectors with pragmatic land use expertise and education. Presently, ULI Toronto has nearly 1,700 members.


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