A student team representing all three academic sections within the Knowlton School was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2021 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Competition for its reRoot proposal. In its 19th 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 105 teams representing 61 universities in the United States, Canada, and Singapore competed in this year’s competition.
The five-member teams must have representation from at least three different disciplines pursuing at least three different degree programs. The Ohio State reRoot team included Jay Schlesinger and Tori Lones from the Master of Architecture program, Nicholas Kearney from the Master of City and Regional Planning, Brad Reuschling from the Master of Landscape Architecture program, and John Passen from the Master of Business Administration (from Fisher College of Business).
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, Missouri. The competition site consisted of 25 parcels across almost eight city blocks, totaling approximately 16.2 acres. The challenge brief asked the students to address housing affordability, equity, transportation, mobility, sustainability, and resilience in their proposals.
"I think the challenge and benefit of collaborating on a project with people from different disciplines is always that different perspectives come with it," said Schlesinger, who emphasized this allowed team members to be exposed to different work modes and approaches to creative solutions. Kearney added that the collaborative element of the competition was appealing and beneficial: "Planning is a multidisciplinary profession by its very nature, so I always knew I wanted to participate in ULI as preparation for real-world projects."
The reRoot proposal envisioned the East Village as a central node that would bring the neighborhoods separated by Kansas City’s downtown loop together once more. Through a combination of innovative urban design and inclusive engagement, reRoot created a vibrant, mixed-use district that sought to heal physical and psychological divides, address inequities, and transform a pass-through into a place.
Features of the proposal included a series of green pathways that branched out over a newly capped I-70 and reestablished connectivity with the Paseo West neighborhood. A proposed east-west streetcar loop reconnected east-side residents while catalyzing new transit-oriented development along the route. Central to the reRoot plan was the placement of the Kansas City Royals to a downtown stadium. The new ballpark’s design actively engaged with its surrounding urban environment.
The stadium was a central part of the team's success. The jury recognized the strong focal point created by the stadium and appreciated that the stadium was well connected to transit and had the potential to become an attractive ballpark village.
"I've always wanted to design a stadium and it's a career goal of mine to design them in the future. Seeing the opportunity to preliminarily design one as an anchor for a whole development, albeit in two weeks, was one I couldn't pass up," commented Schlesinger.
"The amazing part of the development is the flowing branches of interconnected programming," remarked Passen, who brought his business background to the team of planners and designers. "It was exciting to see the evolution from the first design to the last, and how the process went from seemingly unrelated buildings to an actual development that felt like it belonged in Kansas City."
The team this year was presented with the additional challenge of collaborating remotely due to COVID-19 protocols. "Our team relied heavily on virtual platforms like Zoom and Miro throughout the process," said Kearney. "One silver lining from working remotely was the flexibility it provided."
The ULI Hines Student Competition, one of the core education initiatives of the Urban Land Institute, is part of an 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 competition encourages cooperation and teamwork—necessary talents in the planning, design, and development of sustainable communities—among future land use professionals and allied professions.