Few cities of our size likely have a wide swath of undeveloped land smack dab in its center core.

But we do, and one of them is located on the eastern side of downtown Minneapolis by the Metrodome. (Several blocks are owned by the Star Tribune.) For architects and urban planners, this is akin to a blank canvas for creative development ideas.

Recently, the Urban Land Institute chose "Downtown East" as the subject of its annual Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. Open to multidisciplinary teams of graduate students, the idea is to craft a long-term development plan that "creates value for property owners, city residents and the greater Twin Cities region."

The competition was based on a hypothetical scenario in which two property owners evaluate the benefits and financial possibilities of enjoining their two parcels. The city provides an incentive to redevelop the site with public parking, affordable housing and a connection between Elliot Park and the Mill District. In the middle of it all, of course, is a billion-dollar Vikings stadium.

The winner was a joint team of graduate students from Kansas State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas. Called "the Armory," the plan works off the historic site on 5th Street, integrating it with the skyway system, an underground parking ramp and a "distinct retail experience.

The three other finalists were from Ball University/Purdue University, Harvard University and Yale University. The grand prize was $50,000.