February 28th, 2013 | Culture

Yalies named finalists in urban design competition

Five Yale graduate students have created a plan for developing downtown Minneapolis that may win them $50,000.

Last Thursday, the Urban Land Institute announced the finalists for its annual ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition, which challenged interdisciplinary graduate-level teams to create a long-term plan for downtown Minneapolis that would increase the city’s value. Yale’s entry was chosen among 158 applications as one of the four groups that will present their proposals to a panel of judges in April.

Titled “MinneDi” for “Minneapolis Millennial Innovation District,” the proposal’s primary aim is to create a place that encourages college graduates to make their first homes, according to faculty advisor and architectural planning professor Alex Garvin ARC ’67. He added that it also draws from the city’s thriving creative industry and the overarching themes of entrepreneurship, urban living, health- and technology-focused infrastructure and connectivity.

The Yale team includes Brian Hong ARC ’13 SOM ’14, Ollie Niewland-Zlotnick ARC ’13, Mathew Chow SOM ’14, Jonathan Reyes ARC ’13 and Starling Childs FES ’14.

Team member Hong attributed the diversity of the group as one of its major strengths, saying the “three disparate disciplines all bring unique perspectives to the problem we’re tackling.”

Garvin explained that Yale’s proposal is unique because it carefully considers the financial needs of the project. Team members approached the task with a realistic outlook, he said, adding that MinneDi chose to use less than half of the maximum development space allowable under Minneapolis zoning laws. The team has devised strategies to make their plan both financially and politically feasible.

“They aren’t going for what will cost the most money or what will be the most glamorous,” Garvin said. “If you propose something that is not financeable and that the community will not approve, then what would be the point?”

A team member will travel to Minneapolis on March 15 to conduct on-the-ground research.