Student winners named in UrbanPlan Competition at Elon

Teams used intellect and creativity to balance the demands of developers with the needs of a local community in a campus contest that challenged participants to redevelop parts of a fictional city.

Fifteen students competed in the UrbanPlan fall contest that required teams to weigh the financial interests of developers while also addressing issues such as affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and other community demands of a fictional city.

A team comprised of Elon University students Kate Cooper ‘26, Kristen Wong ‘26, Nathan Melendes ‘26, Harlan Auerbach ‘27 and Ty Feiler ‘26 prevailed in the 2023 event.

Donning a myriad of professional hats — financial analyst, marketing director, city liaison, neighborhood liaison, site planner and sustainability director — members of each team were forced to think, negotiate and propose solutions that catered to stakeholders.

Organized by Associate Professor Margarita Kaprielyan, the UrbanPlan Competition was judged by Deborah Cleary and Rachel Wylie from the Urban Land Institute.

Participants weren’t playing a simple game of numbers and blueprints, said Kaprielyan, a faculty member in the Department of Finance. They were navigating the delicate balance between diverse needs and demands of vast groups vested in the development – the city, the developers and the community.

“UrbanPlan is a unique opportunity for students to gain firsthand knowledge of the complexities and tradeoffs inherent in urban planning and development,” she said. “In a broader sense, it’s our communities that win.”

The student experience in the UrbanPlan Competition was nothing short of transformative, as shared by participants reflecting on their journey.

“It was challenging in that it pushed me to compare different development decisions, where there is no seemingly ‘right or wrong’ answer,” said Cooper.

“An aspect of the competition that I really found interesting was designing the city to meet the common project goals but also trying to satisfy our “investors” by complying with their goals and requests,” said Feiler.

Participants were drawn to the competition for diverse reasons, ranging from a desire for hands-on experience and expanding their knowledge to the enjoyment of collaborating with new peers.

“I made new connections through this competition and felt that I gained skills that I will need going into a real-world job,” said Wong.

“Working in groups also shows your personal strengths and weaknesses, so taking this opportunity to expand on my own traits is vital to me. Overall, the experience was well worth it, and I would look forward to participating in another event similar to this,” said Auerbach.