Since 2002, the annual ULI Hines Student Competition has challenged students—over 8,000 of them now—to reimagine development ideas in urban spaces across North America. The highly coveted student competition includes teams from Canada and the United States who compete for an impressive grand prize and bragging rights. The competition is sponsored by Gerald D. Hines, founder of the private real estate development company Hines, and offers the ultimate winning prize of $50,000 US generously provided by Hines in addition to $10,000 US for each finalist team. The graduate students are asked to devise a detailed design and model of a proposed development scheme for a real, large-scale urban site.

2018 ULI Hines Competition site area in Toronto, image retrieved by ULI Briefing Materials

This year marks a big achievement for Toronto as the first host city outside of the US to be the chosen development site in the 16-year history of the competition. Daniel Lobo, senior director of ULI Awards, felt it was Canada’s time: “We really wanted to go to a city that has development momentum. This is an ideas competition, but it needs to be based in reality. We want to participate in real conversations about development. Toronto had all of that, and more”. The former Unilever soap factory (East Harbour) and a 16-acre parcel owned by Toronto Don Properties (BMW lands) in the City’s East Bayfront at the mouth of the Don River was selected as the canvas for the case study. Participating teams were asked to analyze current conditions to provide a vision and growth plan to create an integrated, mixed-use transition area taking into account the proposed future transit hub and East Harbour development. Other adjacent considerations include the developed, award-winning West Don Lands and Quayside development by Waterfront Toronto, and Google’s Sidewalk Toronto.   

This year's competition attracted interest from a total of 130 teams representing 60 universities across North America, including several Canadian universities. All submissions were reviewed by a 12-person, multi-disciplinary panel of land-use experts, including several jurors from Toronto to ensure up‐to‐date knowledge of the site and the validity of the proposals. Jurors from Toronto included Paul Bedford (Chair, Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel and former Toronto Chief City Planner), Bruce Kuwabara (Partner at KPMB Architects), Megan Torza (Partner at DTAH) and Leslie Woo (Chief Planning and Development Officer of Metrolinx).

The four short-listed teams were announced on February 22nd, 2018, and all participating finalist students presented their ideas two months later on April 5th in Downtown Toronto on an all-expenses paid trip. Prior to the final presentations, one representative from each of the four finalist teams received an all-expenses paid trip to Toronto for a site tour. The 2018 finalist teams were as follows:

  • “Montage” from Cornell University
  • “Absorption” from the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • “The Earl” from the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • “Point Passage” from the University of Maryland

The finalist presentations and winner of the award were announced at the Arcadian Loft in Toronto at the ULI Toronto annual Meet the Chiefs gala representing senior municipal and provincial planning and development officials in the Toronto region. The teams showcased their presentation boards to attendees at the Meet the Chiefs gala event. In attendance were prominent city-building Toronto professionals including Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto’s Chief Planner Gregg Lintern, former Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, and over twenty Chief Planners from the Greater Toronto Region.

Winner of the 2018 ULI Hines Design Competition in Toronto

2018 ULI Hines Student Competition Winners "Montage" with Gerald D. Hines, image retrieved from Patrick Moher

And the 2018 winner of the ULI Hines student competition goes to—drumroll—'Montage' from Cornell University! Gerald G. Hines himself announced the winner of the award at the Meet the Chiefs Gala in Toronto. Below are the team members from Cornell University:

  • Gary Esposito, Master of Architecture
  • Paul Heydweiller, Master of Real Estate
  • Jamie Mitchell, Master of Architecture
  • Rawinthira Narksusook, Master of Real Estate
  • Peter Romano (Team Leader), Joint Master of Regional Planning/Master of Real Estate
  • Academic Advisor: Suzanne Lanyi Charles, Assistant Professor, City and Regional Planning

"Montage" Presentation Panel 1, image retrieved from ULI Hines Competition Website

The idea of “Montage” is demonstrated in presentation panels 1 and 2 shown above and below, and explained in detail by the team:“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 create a unique and lively 24/7 neighborhood. Akin to clipping together film scenes, Montage facilitates the collaboration of surrounding communities and creative thinkers. It promotes communication and innovation with venues for theatre and music, and spaces for the public. Sunlight Park reclaims over eight acres of waterfront park space adjoining Corktown Common and provides panoramic views of downtown Toronto. Underneath the park is an engineered flood mitigation and water recycling system that uses storm water overflow to create dynamic seasonal landscapes. At the center of the development, the Nell Shipman Cinema Centre and Broadview Plaza seamlessly integrate the recreational, cultural, and professional elements of the district".

"Montage" Presentation Panel 2, image retrieved from ULI Hines Competition Website

Click here to visit the online version of final presentation boards and design/financial report for “Montage”.

Take Away from Keynote Address at the ULI Meet the Chiefs Gala - Daniel Doctoroff

Meet the Chiefs guests were invited to a fireside chat over dinner with special keynote speaker Daniel Doctoroff (CEO of Sidewalk Labs), a fitting and timely speaker with the recent Sidewalk Labs announcements and adjacency of the ULI Hines competition site to the new sidewalk labs innovation hub in the Port Lands. Doctoroff spoke of leadership and the importance of understanding not only the pertinent issues but how to deal with them in the context of city-building when problem solving. He stressed the significance of dealing with an issue before it becomes a huge problem by devising a creative plan and proper financing plan. "These plans are vital when a catalyst isn’t present to trigger action in the first place" says Doctoroff.

Doctoroff was born in Newark, New Jersey, grew up in Detroit, and said he would never live in NYC when he endeavored on a road trip there with his family when he was young. Currently living and working in the Big Apple, he tells the audience with a chuckle “never say never”. However, he credits his multi-city background in helping him with forward-thinking strategies for the 21st century: a different approach to mobility, sustainability, building design, public realm, and community and social innovation. He was forced to rethink how places function and how qualities of life can actually be changed through this in a fun, exciting and interesting way. Doctoroff ends with a lasting statement —

"Smart cities have had their share of criticisms but have often fallen short due to lack of skills in place-making. Sidewalk Labs focuses on communications with urbanists and civic minds coupled with technology. I believe real innovation can be fused with great urban design, and if Sidewalk Labs is successful in Toronto, it can show the rest of the world how to create an economic cluster coupled with urban innovation".

ED NOTE: An earlier version of this article had an incorrect birthplace stated for Dan Doctoroff.