ULI names four finalists in Sulphur Dell design competition

Student team winner to be named in April, receive $50K prize

The reinvention of Nashville's building-sparse Sulphur Dell district will require years.

And four teams of college students have submitted their vision for that future.

On Thursday, the Urban Land Institute released the finalist teams in the 12th annual ULI Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. The four graduate-level student teams — representing Georgia Tech University, Harvard University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Texas — will visit Nashville on April 3-4, during which a jury will announce the winner of a $50,000 prize.

The ULI competition (read more here) tasked the multidisciplinary student teams (comprising students majoring in, among others, architecture and business) with proposing a long-term development vision for Sulphur Dell, which will be anchored by an under-construction Nashville Sounds ballpark and is a key segment of the greater North Capitol area of the city’s fast-changing near north side.

Jimmy Granbery, chief executive officer of H.G. Hill Realty Company and a ULI jury member, said developers eyeing Sulphur Dell might want to take some cues from the quartet's work. 

“The interesting part is that this is not a full hypothetical [exercise]," Granbery said. “The students had to take into consideration where the roads are, where the government property is, where the ballpark will be. They knew the value of the properties. Not only that, but they had to put together a pro forma.”

The development schemes from the four finalist teams are as follows:

• Georgia Tech University: Uptown Nashville. “With the ballpark and other existing and proposed amenities acting as a catalyst, Uptown Nashville intends to leverage existing and future amenities to foster the creation of a healthy, diverse, and profitable community.”

• Harvard University: The Sulphur Dell Market District. “A healthy lifestyle community that catalyzes the revitalization of Nashville and is prototypical of resilient urbanism for cities of a similar size. The proposal is based on a landscape framework of layered strategies of ecology, mobility and food, along with creating the conditions for a diverse urban district that will continue to change and mature over time.

• University of Maryland: Chords. “Development proposes a partnership between the existing private owners and the State of Tennessee. The design captures the experiences of a diverse group of people that are brought together by regional connectors, culture, living and fitness ‘strings.’"

• University of Texas: Greenheart Village. “Establishes a new model of urban living, initiating the rebranding of Nashville as an active, healthy, and engaged community. Greenheart Village utilizes adaptive infrastructure to respond to environmental, social, and economic changes, fostering an environment that encourages adaptation as people engage their local surroundings and a changing world.

In addition to the $50,000 first-place prize the winner will get, the three other finalist teams will receive $10,000. Of note, 163 teams comprising 815 students from 72 universities in the United States and Canada participated in the first round of the competition.

“It was interesting to see their creative juices flowing, taking into consideration of topography, grade, transit issues, the ballpark and the greenway,” Granbery said of the student effort.

In addition to Granbery, three Nashvillians (each a ULI member) are serving on the 14-member jury: Tom Gibson, senior vice president and partner, Holladay Properties; Marty Heflin, founder and managing partner, Range Light Partners; and Phil Ryan, affiliate broker, Cherry & Associates.

“The significance is that this is a real-life experience for young architect students and MBA students of what it’s like when a city comes forward with an RFP (request for proposals) or RFQ (request for qualifications),” said Heflin, who has developed various buildings located within Nashville's urban core. “In that regard, it’s a superlative experience. Would a private developer run with some of these recommendations? Some of the elements are interesting. It’s wonderful when you get a fresh set of eyes and perspective.”

Gibson said that Holladay Properties, which redeveloped a Sulphur Dell building it has reinvented as the BowTruss Building, and prospective developers should find the students' work interesting.

"As a development company that has an investment in the Suphur Dell area, it was a real treat to see some of the ideas put forth by some of the brightest young minds in America," he said. "As a judge, it was a difficult path to pick the four finalists".


Georgia Tech University: Uptown Nashville (Click here for larger image)

Harvard University: The Sulphur Dell Market District (Click here for larger image)

University of Maryland: Chords (Click here for larger image)

University of Texas: Greenheart Village (Click here for larger image)