By Jeb Reece, BUPD ‘2020
After an exciting win in the 2019 NAIOP-ULI Real estate competition, our team was looking forward to participating in the 2020 Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation (HEEF) Case Challenge. The team, consisting of Jeffery Tompkins, Jacob McQueen, Alex Pope, and myself, was guided by Dr. Bruce Frankel.
The site was six blocks in downtown Chicago, formerly owned by Moody Bible Institute (MBI). MBI is in the process of selling the site as they continue to focus on their core campus just east of the site. The challenge was split into two parts. The first was to develop the site using the highest and best uses. The second was to design a master plan for MBI’s core campus. The five of us visited the site one blustery Saturday before spring break.
Uncertainty set in after spring break, as the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down classes, events, and stores. Even as classes ceased, we continued our work on the project. The Foundation reached out to us with a plan less than a week after classes were canceled. Our final presentation would be held virtually via Zoom. Our team adapted accordingly. In the weeks leading up to the project deadline, we worked remotely from our homes in South Bend, Fishers, and Muncie.
Our proposal included a two-phase approach. To begin, MBI would retain ownership of the land and become an equity partner in the project.
Phase I called for the construction of a 73-story mixed-income residential high-rise. Profits from the top 20 floors, for-sale luxury condos that offered skyline and lake views, subsidized affordable units in the lower part of the building. Affordability was a reoccurring theme throughout the project.
Phase II included the construction of two office/residential buildings (affordable housing included) as well as a hotel. In total, our project would produce 500 affordable housing units. Our team felt that this component was critical because of the growing wealth inequality and gentrification in urban places like Chicago. Throughout the plan, implementation of good urbanist practices, like complete streets, was implemented. To cap-off the proposal, our campus master plan featured a new student center and added connectivity throughout the campus.
Challenges During COVID
Collaborating remotely was a challenge at first. After a couple of days of texting, calling, e-mailing and “Zooming,” we were able to establish a path to completion and collaborate effectively. Dr. Frankel proved to be an amazing component in this aspect. He wasted no time coming to terms with the new normal, establishing lucid communication through email, call, and Zoom. In the final days before our presentation, we met with Dr. Frankel via Zoom five times, as he challenged us to improve our project to near perfection. Just as he guided us in NAIOP and in the studio, Dr. Frankel once again helped us apply a method of success and application to our planning education.
In the end, we received Honorable Mention, placing in the top three of seven schools. This was Ball State’s first time competing in this competition. We were up against the likes of Indiana University, the University of Illinois, and Notre Dame. While we did not receive the accolades of first place, we did tackle these uncertain times with confidence, representing our university in a winning capacity for the second time in a single academic year.