Published: April 10, 2012

A revitalization project for downtown Houston combining residential, retail and entrepreneurial business elements won $50,000 in a national urban design competition for a joint student team from the University of Colorado Boulder and Harvard University.

Chad Murphy and Alex Atherton, two MBA candidates in real estate from CU-Boulder, joined Michael Albert, Anna Cawrse and Victor Perez Amado, all graduate students from Harvard University, to form the team that took home first prize.

The team’s winning proposal, “Bayou Commons,” was designed to be downtown Houston's first residential district celebrating cultural diversity and urban lifestyle. The group redesigned the 16.3 acre landmark United States Postal Service facility in downtown Houston.

“People have a growing desire to live downtown,” Murphy said of the team’s design. “This is a unique opportunity where some of the strongest real estate oriented people in the country come together in one multidisciplinary competition. It’s amazing and humbling to have been a part of it.”

The design's features include: an iconic pedestrian bridge spanning the bayou, unique architecture and shaded sidewalks that create comfort and re-establishes downtown outdoor enjoyment in Houston's hot and humid climate, and a new cultural center for exhibits and performances.

The 10th annual Urban Land Institute (ULI) Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition pits graduate level teams against each other based on a hypothetical proposal for a redevelopment project. Student teams act as a master developer by proposing a master land use plan for a development site, as well as supplying financial projections needed to support the master development plan. A team from CU-Boulder also won the grand prize at this competition in 2005.

Established in 1936, the Urban Land Institute ( is a nonprofit education and research institute with a mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.