By Kevin Collison
Four teams of graduate students from top universities throughout North America are finalists for a prestigious design competition that tasked contestants with proposing concepts to redevelop the East Village area of downtown.
Two of the submissions include locating a ballpark on the redevelopment site that’s been frequently mentioned as a top candidate should the Royals choose ultimately to come downtown.
“These Hines Competition projects by graduate students often surpass the visions that we see from national and local developers for projects,” Joe Perry of Port KC, one of the local ULI jurors, said in a statement.
“They are unconstrained by some real world parameters that allow them to dream big and swing for the fences…..all puns intended.”
The finalists are competing in the ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, the nation’s premier planning and development association.
They were among 105 entries reviewed by a jury of ULI members in a competition that began Jan. 11. A final decision is expected April 8. The winning team will receive a $50,000 prize, the runners-up will each receive $10,000.
“Even though teams weren’t able to meet in person, they produced proposals that were every bit as sophisticated as in prior years,” Diana Reid, chair of this year’s competition, said in a statement.
“Ultimately, the final four teams had a strong vision aligned with the challenge, balanced urban design with financial feasibility, demonstrated teamwork and showed potential on their original proposals in the finals.”
The finalists are:
—EAVIRO District Development plan from the University of Houston, Penn State University and Columbia University in New York. Their plan calls for a mixed-use, mixed income neighborhood that would include a new ballpark for the Royals “that is envisioned as a new economic driver that will have a catalytic and valuable impact to the future of KC.”
—Fusion a Canadian team from Ryerson University, York University and the University of Toronto. The team’s plan calls for “seamlessly” fusing the East Village, Paseo West and downtown with a “welcoming and affordable mixed-use development” designed around connectivity and resilience.
—Homebase from the University of California Berkley calls for a $1.4 billion, mixed-use, mixed income development anchored by a ballpark. “The relocation of the KC Royals baseball stadium to the urban core will catalyze a much-needed connection between Paseo West and the East Village…Homebase will revitalize this downtown neighborhood and become the heartbeat of KC.”
—Cattlyst from the Georgia Institute of Technology “celebrates Kansas City’s agricultural roots while launching the future of food.” The plan calls for showcasing innovation in food technology, partners with existing companies and universities “to capitalize on the growing biotech workforce by establishing itself as an innovation corridor anchored by a diverse neighborhood.”
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’s been designated formally by the city as a redevelopment zone since 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.
In 2017, VanTrust Real Estate was granted the development rights. Since then, the firm has been acquiring the remaining properties in the redevelopment area and now controls about 85 percent of the land.
Last summer, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority opened a transit center adjoining the site at 12th and Charlotte.
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.
During the last phase of the competition, the four finalist teams will meet with local stakeholders on March 5 to learn more about the site and the city, according to a press release from the ULI.
The teams will then make a second presentation in front of a jury on March 19, and then a final presentation on April 8. The winner will be chosen that day.
“I know we’re all enthused and excited for the finals round where the top teams have the opportunity to shine not only by showcasing their creative (and financially solid) concepts, but also by the way in which their designs can make an impact across the KC region,” Jill McCarthy of the KC Area Development Council, a local juror, said in a statement.
Local jurors for the ULI/Hines Competition are Randy Bredar, senior v.p. at JE Dunn Construction; Lynn Carlton, v.p. regional planning HOK; McCarthy, senior v.p., KC Area Development Council; Perry, v.p., Port KC, and Amy Slattery, founder and CEO, Odimo.
“One of the most meaningful comments during the process I heard from our partner jurors (not from Kansas City), was that this was a very tough study area,” Slattery said in a statement.
“The East Village has a confluence of many problems major urban centers still have in our country – the need for both housing and a sense of place, empty parking lots, disconnection from neighborhoods, a highway both above and below the edge of the site.
“If the students can solve these issues here, these ideas can form a model for solving these issues anywhere.”
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