Multidisciplinary Team Advances to ULI Competition Finals

February 22, 2024
One of only four finalist teams, students' proposal aims to incorporate accessibility, social equity, and resiliency in the transformation of a downtown Seattle site.
Overhead rendering of The Stitch proposal and site in downtown Seattle

A multidisciplinary team of students from The University of Texas at Austin has been selected as a finalist in the 2024 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hines Student Competition. Comprised of students from the School of Architecture and the McCombs School of Business, UT Austin’s team is one of only four selected to advance to the finals out of 59 teams representing more than 22 universities. 

Now in its 22nd year, the ULI Competition offers graduate students the opportunity to form their own multidisciplinary teams and engage in a challenging exercise in responsible land use. Teams of five students pursuing degrees in at least three disciplines have two weeks to develop a comprehensive design and development program for a real, large-scale urban site, complete with site plans, renderings, analytical tables, and market-feasible financial data. 

For this year’s competition challenge, students were tasked with transforming a stagnant, underutilized site and a larger 15.4-acre study area in downtown Seattle, Washington into a thriving, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood. Home to several King County-owned buildings, public rights-of-way, and historic properties, the site and study area are located at the intersection of several neighborhoods, bounded by I-5 and the Central Business District. The challenge: Develop a proposal for the transformation of the study area and a proposal evaluating the benefits and financial possibilities of redeveloping the county-owned parcels (the site) within a 10-year period. Proposals should aim to increase connectivity and mobility, address issues of equity and housing affordability, and have a positive economic impact on the study area and community at large while increasing sustainability and resilience. 

The UT Austin finalist proposal, “The Stitch,” is a unifying project that looks to repair and unify the barren downtown lives of King County—building on accessibility, social equity, and resiliency to unite the residents and outside tourists. The Stitch is a centrally located revitalized community that will become the beating heart of downtown Seattle. A place for people to live, work, and play, the Stitch will provide connectivity to an underutilized area of Seattle, with a focus on sustainably repurposing existing structures to serve the area and its residents equitably. 

The finalist team from The University of Texas at Austin includes Master of Science in Urban Design students Edwin Flores and Mehran Abili, Master of Sustainable Design student Saba Abdolshani, and Master of Architecture student Nasim Kheibri from the School of Architecture and first-year MBA student Ryan White from the McCombs School of Business. The team was advised by Professor Dean Almy and mentored by Douglas Moss of Steinberg Hart and Brad Garner of SJPI.

The team was one of only four selected for the next phase of the competition by a jury of twelve ULI members comprised of experts in real estate, land use, and design. The other finalists include two teams from Georgia Tech and a team from the University of Maryland College Park. During the second round of the competition, the finalists will refine their original proposals, submit revised documents, and prepare to present to the competition jury in April. As finalists, the team also receives $10,000 and will be flown out to Seattle for two days of live public presentations and Q&A sessions with the jury members.  

Earlier in February, the School of Architecture and the McCombs School of Business’ Texas Real Estate Center hosted an in-house ULI competition. This annual in-house juried competition is made possible by the support of the Mike and Betsy Cogburn and the Cogburn Family Foundation. The Cogburn competition jury selected The Circuit as the in-house winner, and they received a $4,000 first-place prize, sponsored by the McCombs Real Estate Center, which also hosted the competition reception, led by Mandy Pope The Circuit team includes Maria Rubio (MSCRP/MSUD), Aishwarya Parab (MSUD), Sripoorani Srinivasan (MSUD), and Robert Allen (MBA).

The in-house jury included Dean Heather Woofter, who served as jury chair; Assistant Professor Maggie Hansen; Associate Professor Jake Wegman; Greg Clay, President of JMI Realty; Shane Hesson, Principal of Endeavor Real Estate Group; and Brad Stein, President of Intracorp. Special thank you to Mandy Pope of the Real Estate Center who sponsored the competition, Steven Spears of Momark Development, Rebecca Leonard of Lionheart, who served as the competition managers and ULI mentor organizers, and Sheryl McOsker of ULI Austin. 

Six maps analyzing different aspects of The Stitch site.


Rendering of the team's proposal for Chinook Plaza, including several buildings and people gathering and riding bikes.


Rendering and elements proposed for The Stitch's "Bridge Skate Haven."


"The Stitch" sustainable diagram


"The Stitch" project phasing and financing