One of the biggest development trends in recent years promises to deliver walkable, sustainable and economically robust results. Mixed-use developments are becoming extremely popular in urban and suburban markets alike because of the many benefits they offer communities. As developers consider their next projects, they might want to take a closer look at opportunities that allow for a blend of uses in a single building or master plan.
What is Mixed-Use Development?
At its core, mixed-use development is exactly what its name suggests: a development that mixes different uses or purposes. These developments can be contained within a single building or planned within a specific neighborhood, like a city block or a master-planned community. A mixed-use development contained within a single building is often considered “vertical” development. “Horizontal” development is when multiple buildings are strategically placed near one another to provide a blend of uses.
The traditional goal of a mixed-use development is to combine residential homes with one or more non-residential uses. Non-residential uses might include retail space like a small grocery store or a restaurant; commercial office space; medical centers; or community-serving areas like an arts space, library or workforce training center. Some developments include other uses like hotels or, less commonly, industrial space.
The different uses involved in a mixed-use development are designed to complement one another and serve a purpose in the community. For example, a family residential building might benefit from a ground-floor childcare center or bank. Likewise, an active living community for older adults might include a pharmacy or primary care health clinic.
Mixed-use development doesn’t end with interior spaces, either. Many mixed-use developments incorporate public spaces outside, such as gardens, plazas, corridors and transit stops. These elements encourage people to get outside, spend time together and walk, bike or take public transit to nearby destinations.
In order to create a mixed-use community, developers must consider the zoning regulations in a particular area of the city. Large tracts of land may be zoned exclusively for residential or commercial use. These plots may require variances in order to build mixed-use properties on them.
The Benefits of Mixed-Use Developments
There are numerous benefits to mixed-use development, both for developers or investors and for the people who will inhabit them. Most importantly, mixed-use development helps to improve the entire surrounding community.
Here are five ways that mixed-use developments benefit the communities they’re built in.
- Walkability: One of the biggest benefits to mixed-use developments is the proximity they create between housing, amenities and the workplace. These developments put almost everything residents require at their fingertips, meaning they don’t have to drive across town for their daily needs. This creates a walkable atmosphere, where people can quickly visit a store, the café, the bank or the pharmacy before heading into the office down the block. A walkable community creates convenience for residents, encourages people to live a healthier and more active lifestyle and maximizes the space in the development itself. The result is a higher quality of life overall.
- Sustainability: Walkable neighborhoods also have benefits for sustainability. Fewer parking garages or lots are needed because residents are able to get around without a car. The more walkable a development is, the fewer cars are on the road, and the less emissions are pumped into the air. This can improve air quality and the health of the surrounding community as well as have long-term benefits for the environment. Additionally, in some cases, mixed-use developments are built on underutilized tracts of land or within vacant structures. Revitalizing old buildings and materials is a more sustainable approach to construction than building all-new properties. So is making efficient use of existing infrastructure and protecting natural areas by mitigating urban sprawl.
- Economic strength: People living in the residential portion of mixed-use developments are more likely to frequent the commercial elements of the community they live in. Whether it’s a national grocery chain or a local coffee shop, businesses in these developments typically see higher foot traffic and increased sales revenue because they are close to home. This can provide tremendous economic benefits to cities and municipalities. Instead of commuting out to shop and dine, residents are spending money in their immediate neighborhood, which bolsters the circular economy. Mixed-use developments also have the potential to become premier destinations for neighbors and tourists, which can draw even more money into the area.
- Job creation: Mixed-use communities help create new jobs and give people the opportunity to work close to where they live. This is particularly beneficial in suburban areas that are further from job centers. The inclusion of commercial spaces in areas that may have formerly been zoned for residential can eliminate or reduce residents’ commutes. This can also improve housing affordability by giving lower-wage members of the workforce access to attainable homes nearby.
- Stronger community: Mixed-use developments bring a lot of people together in close proximity for a variety of reasons. Each use is designed to complement the others, so buildings and businesses aren’t siloed away from one another in the neighborhood. This, along with public gathering spaces, encourage people to interact and build stronger ties to each other and the neighborhood at large. These developments promote a sense of place and community that’s not found as often in individual properties.
Mixed-Use Can Revitalize Communities
Developers who pursue mixed-use real estate ultimately play an important role in breathing new life into communities. A mixed-use development can deliver housing, create new jobs and spur economic growth in once-overlooked areas of a city.
Building a substantial residential development alongside community-serving amenities and commercial space creates a win-win-win for developers, investors and residents. With that in mind, developers must prioritize planning and design to ensure every element of their properties complement and benefit the others. Carefully consider the land’s infrastructure, zoning and risks to make sure a mixed-use development is appropriate and feasible. When done well, mixed-use real estate has the power to transform an entire neighborhood for the better. Check out some of the projects Sandbox Development Consultants has helped bring to life!