Knowlton Students Receive Honorable Mention in 2020 ULI Competition

A student team representing all three sections of the Knowlton School was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2020 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Competition for its Levels—Miami proposal. In its 18th year, the ULI Competition challenges graduate students to propose a comprehensive design and development scheme for a real, large-scale site in a North American city. A total of 113 teams made up of 565 students competed in this year’s competition.

Unique to the competition is that the five-member teams must have student representation from at least three different disciplines pursuing at least three different degree programs. The Ohio State Levels team was comprised of: Abigail Anacki (MSCRP), Brandon Dornier (MBA), Emily Long (MSCRP), Harshat Verma (MLA), and Jay Schlesinger (MARCH).

“The benefit of collaborating on a project with people from different disciplines," said Anacki "are the different perspectives brought to the table to tackle problems. Working with a real-life scenario and actual costs, the push and pull between numbers, buildings, and the landscape to find the sweet spot of whether it can actually work was constant and eye-opening.”

“The interdisciplinary and interdependent collaboration enabled us to find solutions that would work at multiple levels,” added Verma. “The competition helped me understand the balance needed between all disciplines for a design to be realistic and effective.”

This year’s competition site was an aggregate of 48 parcels across six city blocks in downtown Miami, totaling 11.1 acres of the Wynwood and Edgewater neighborhoods. The competition challenged each team to envision transforming the site into a thriving, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood. Proposal materials demonstrate how the project will have a positive economic impact while also enhancing the sustainability and resilience of the study area, surrounding neighborhoods, and the city at large.

Over three phases of development, the Levels team project builds out various mixed-used properties like residential units, office and retail space, and a parking garage around the Florida East Coast Railway transit hub. Sweeping public spaces connect to Miami’s green network to allow a natural flow between neighborhoods, encouraging social relationships that bind communities together.

The Levels project also initiates infrastructure tactics to prepare for and capitalize on global shifts, specifically around the impacts of climate change. Detention ponds at either end of the project act as absorption zones and public spaces during both dry and wet periods. Pedestrian pathways are elevated above projected rising sea levels to create a network of protected connections throughout the development. Ground floors of all the buildings are flexible in use and have substantially high ceilings to allow the floor to be adapted as sea levels rise.

“I was very interested in the idea that our development could work while there was flooding, and even celebrate the flooding in a way,” said Schlesinger. “Learning to live with water instead of always working against it may be a better—and almost necessary—idea moving forward with architecture in a rapidly changing climate.”

“As a Fisher College of Business student, I really don’t get a chance to integrate with other graduate programs. Ohio State has a wealth of talent, and the opportunity to cross-train with other graduate programs and compete within an intense team environment is gold,” said Dornier. “I think this experience is absolutely translatable to the real world, and a successful ULI competition can be a fantastic learning experience both professionally and personally.”

In addition to the team’s honorable mention in the national competition, they also won the ULI Hines Student Competition Local Case Study, presented by ULI Columbus.

The ULI Hines Student Competition is part of the Institute’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.