Canadian Team’s ‘Complete Vision’ for East Village Wins Prestigious ULI Competition

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The FUSION proposal by grad students from three Canadian universities was praised by ULI judges for its "complete vision" redeveloping a new East Village neighborhood (Rendering from FUSION presentation)

By Kevin Collison

The East Village would bloom as a new “intergenerational” downtown neighborhood with 1,500 apartments and a food-focused vibe in the winning proposal of this year’s ULI/Hines Student Urban Design Competition.

The FUSION plan prepared by graduate students from three Canadian universities–Ryerson, York and the University of Toronto–was selected from four finalist concepts by an Urban Land Institute jury last week.

The estimated $655.7 million FUSION concept included 453 affordable apartments, 1,035 market-rate units, a 107,000 square-foot community center and 365,300 square-feet of office and retail geared toward agricultural and culinary research.

“FUSION presented a complete vision for a new urban neighborhood in Kansas City,” the ULI jurors stated.

“The master plan enables economic resilience within Kansas City through small-scale food growth and distribution, local culinary incubation and research-driven employment opportunities.

“This food-based approach, paired with inclusive and sustainable economic growth, created the catalytic vision of this new urban neighborhood including intergenerational approach, strong pedestrian elements and connectivity throughout.”

The FUSION plan focused on Kansas City’s agricultural heritage to come up with its concept for a new “intergenerational” neighborhood. (Rendering from FUSION presentation)

The Canadian team was among 105 entries reviewed by a jury of ULI members in a competition that began Jan. 11. The winning team shared a $50,000 prize and the runners-up each received $10,000.

Eighteen U.S. and Canadian cities have hosted the ULI/Hines Competition since it began in 2003. The competition doesn’t require anything to be ultimately built based on the entries and entrants are judged based on their ideas.

The ULI is considered the premier real estate and development organization in North America. Its choice of the East Village for this year’s international competition was the latest chapter in 15-year effort to revitalize the eight-block area northeast of City Hall

The East Village is an eight-block area northeast of City Hall that was designated a redevelopment zone by the city in 2005. (Map from ULI)

The East Village is an eight-block area northeast of City Hall and runs roughly from Eighth to 12th streets between Cherry and Charlotte. It was formally designated a redevelopment area by the city in 2005.

With the exception of J.E. Dunn opening its headquarters in 2009 and the construction of a 50-unit apartment development by Swope Community Builders in 2011, the empty blocks have been relatively untouched.

The three other ULI/Hines finalists were:

—EAVIRO District Development plan from the University of Houston, Penn State University and Columbia University in New York. Their plan called for a mixed-use, mixed income neighborhood that included a new ballpark for the Royals.

—Homebase from the University of California Berkley called for a $1.4 billion, mixed-use, mixed income development also anchored by a major league ballpark.

—Cattlyst from the Georgia Institute of Technology which submitted a plan that called for “showcasing innovation in food technology, partners with existing companies and universities and establishing an innovation corridor anchored by a diverse neighborhood.”

Another look at the pedestrian features of the FUSION concept. (Rendering by FUSION team)

Kona Gray, a Florida landscape architect and one of the ULI jurors, told the FUSION team “you provided a catalyst vision that was on steroids, we loved it.

“A number of local jurors noted you mentioned Kansas City being a city of fountains and that really resonated and also touched on how important water is to this part of the world.”

In the description of their proposal, the students said FUSION master plan intended to reconnect surrounding districts and neighborhoods inside and outside of the downtown freeway Loop.

“The development intentionally re-establishes a welcoming gateway to the downtown core on the eastern edge of the site through access to critical social infrastructure – the community center, and enhanced underpasses,” the students’ stated.

This year’s Hines/ULI Student Competition was conducted virtually because of the Covid pandemic, adding another challenge to student teams, many of them from different universities, to work collaboratively on their proposals.

The University of California Berkley team included a new ballpark for the Royals as part of their redevelopment proposal for the East Village. (Image from UC Berkley presentation)

“I commend them for the creativity and hard work that got them to the final stage of this competition,” W. Edward Walker, ULI Global CEO, said in a statement.

Local jurors for the ULI/Hines Competition were Randy Bredar, senior v.p. at JE Dunn Construction; Lynn Carlton, v.p. regional planning, HOK; Jill McCarthy, senior v.p., KC Area Development Council; Joe Perry, v.p., Port KC, and Amy Slattery, founder and CEO, Odimo.

Diana Reid, chair of the ULI jury, said each of the four finalist teams “delivered catalytic urban plans.

“FUSION stood out as it pushed a new paradigm for an urban neighborhood based on the strong regional legacy of agriculture.”

FUSION emphasized connectivity and resilience in their proposal for a mixed-used development in the East Village (Image from Fusion ULI submission)

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I hope Kansas City will see how good this will be for the future of our town. I hear Gen X and older complain that a downtown royals stadium would be bad “because where would we park?”, but people have got to understand that mobility in the 21st century is changing rapidly. The kids aren’t quite as car crazed as our parents generations. This is a great step toward building the KC of the future.

    Hope folks start getting on board.

  2. So – what happens now? Does a developer have to agree to build it? Is this purely conceptual, and then nothing happens? I know there’s no requirement anything be built, but will this get taken up by City Council or anything like that? Just curious.

    • This is completely conceptual, while the student team was charged with also proposing a viable financing plan, there’s no obligation by anyone for it to be built. So I doubt if the Council will do anything except maybe a couple might read the article.

  3. This is a great plan, and would tie in well with existing BRT lines. I would love to see a development like this and a Royals ballpark in the current KCATA site at 18th and Troost than a new ballpark in the East Loop like the other proposals.

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