Mixed-use development

Jump to navigation Jump to search
Apartment complex with retail and medical offices on ground floor, Kirkland, Washington
Ballston Common in Arlington, Virginia, part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, is transit-oriented, mixed-use and densified, giving a "downtown" feel in an edge city, in the inner-suburban area
Traditional mixed-use development pattern in a city center: Bitola, North Macedonia

Mixed-use development is a term used for two related concepts:

  • In the sense of mixed-use zoning or mixed-use planning, it is a type of urban development, urban planning and/or a zoning type that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or entertainment uses into one space, where those functions are to some degree physically and functionally integrated, and that provides pedestrian connections.[1][2][3] Mixed-use development may be applied in new real estate development projects in a city or suburb, or may apply to a single building, existing or new neighborhood, or in zoning policy across an entire city or other political unit.
  • In the sense of a mixed-use complex, mixed-use project, etc., a mixed-use development refers to "a development" — a building, complex of buildings, or new district of a community that is developed for mixed-use by a private developer, (quasi-) governmental agency, or a combination thereof. A mixed-use development may be new construction, reuse of an existing building or brownfield site, or a combination.

Use in North America vs. Europe[edit]

Traditionally, human settlements have developed in mixed-use patterns. However, with industrialisation as well as the invention of the skyscraper, governmental zoning regulations were introduced to separate different functions, such as manufacturing, from residential areas. In the United States, the heyday of separate-use zoning was after World War II, but since the 1990s, mixed-use zoning has once again become desirable as the benefits are recognized.[4]

In most of Europe, government policy has encouraged the continuation of the city center's role as a main location for business, retail, restaurant, and entertainment activity, unlike in the United States where zoning actively discouraged such mixed use for many decades. As a result, much of Europe's central cities are mixed use "by default" and the term "mixed-use" is much more relevant regarding new areas of the city, when an effort is made to mix residential and commercial activities – such as in Amsterdam's Eastern Docklands – rather than separate them.[5][6]


Expanded use of mixed-use zoning and mixed-use developments may be found in a variety of contexts, such as the following (multiple such contexts might apply to one particular project or situation):[7]

  • as part of smart growth planning strategies
  • in traditional urban neighborhoods, as part of urban renewal and/or infill, i.e. upgrading the buildings and public spaces and amenities of the neighborhood to provide more and/or better housing and a better quality of life - examples include Barracks Row in Washington, D.C. and East Liberty, Pittsburgh
  • in traditional suburbs, adding one or more mixed-use developments to provide a new or more prominent "downtown" for the community - examples include new projects in downtown Bethesda, Maryland, an inner suburb of Washington, D.C., and the Excelsior & Grand complex in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, an inner suburb of Minneapolis
  • greenfield developments, i.e. new construction on previously undeveloped land, particularly at the edge of metropolitan areas and in their exurbs, often as part of creating a relatively denser center for the community – an edge city, or part of one, zoned for mixed use, in the 2010s often labeled "urban villages". Examples include Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia and Halcyon in Forsyth County, Georgia, at the edge of the Atlanta metropolitan area
  • Repurposing of shopping malls and intensification of development around them, particularly as many shopping malls' retail sales, and ability to rent space to retailers, decrease as part of the 2010s retail apocalypse

Any of the above contexts may also include parallel contexts such as:

  • Transit-oriented development - for example in Los Angeles and San Diego where the cities made across-the-board zoning law changes permitting denser development within a certain distance of certain types of transit stations, with the primary aim of increasing the amount and affordability of housing[8]
  • Older cities such as Chicago and San Francisco have historic preservation policies that sometimes offer more flexibility for older buildings to be used for purposes other than what they were originally zoned for, with the aim of preserving historic architecture[9]


Plans promoting mixed-use development or zoning claim that it will achieve numerous benefits; for example the Director of Smart Growth for the State of New York claims that mixed-use development aims to achieve:[4][10]

  • greater housing variety and density, more affordable housing (smaller units), life-cycle housing (starter homes to larger homes to senior housing)
  • more walkable neighborhoods
  • reduced distances between housing, workplaces, retail businesses, and other amenities and destinations
  • better access to fresh, healthy foods (as food retail and farmers' markets can be accessed on foot/bike or by transit)
  • more compact development, land-use synergy (e.g. residents provide customers for retail which provide amenities for residents)
  • stronger neighborhood character, "sense of place", community identity

Types of contemporary mixed-use zoning[edit]

Some of the more frequent mixed-use scenarios in the United States are:[2]

  • Neighborhood commercial zoning – convenience goods and services, such as convenience stores, permitted in otherwise strictly residential areas
  • Main Street residential/commercial – two to three-story buildings with residential units above and commercial units on the ground floor facing the street
  • Urban residential/commercial – multi-story residential buildings with commercial and civic uses on ground floor
  • Office convenience – office buildings with small retail and service uses oriented to the office workers
  • Office/residential – multi-family residential units within office building(s)
  • Shopping mall conversion – residential and/or office units added (adjacent) to an existing standalone shopping mall
  • Retail district retrofit – retrofitting of a suburban retail area to a more village-like appearance and mix of uses
  • Live/work – residents can operate small businesses on the ground floor of the building where they live
  • Studio/light industrial – residents may operate studios or small workshops in the building where they live
  • Hotel/residence – mix hotel space and high-end multi-family residential
  • Parking structure with ground-floor retail
  • Single-family detached home district with standalone shopping center

Examples of cities' mixed-use planning policies[edit]


Skyline of Toronto, Ontario featuring Condominiums


One of the first cities to adopt a policy on mixed-use development is Toronto. The local government first played a role in 1986 with a zoning bylaw that allowed for commercial and residential units to be mixed. At the time, Toronto was in the beginning stages of planning a focus on developing mixed-use development due to the growing popularity of more social housing. The law has since been updated as recently as 2013, shifting much of its focus outside the downtown area which has been a part of the main city since 1998. With the regulations in place, the city has overseen the development of high-rise condominiums throughout the city with amenities and transit stops nearby. Toronto's policies of mixed-use development have inspired other North American cities in Canada and the United States to bring about similar changes.[11]

One example of a Toronto mixed-use development is Mirvish Village[12] by architect Gregory Henriquez. Located at Bloor and Bathurst Street, a significant intersection in Toronto, portions of the Mirvish Village project site are zoned as "commercial residential" and others as "mixed commercial residential."[13] Within the City of Toronto's zoning by-laws, commercial residential includes "a range of commercial, residential and institutional uses, as well as parks."[14] Mirvish Village's programmatic uses include rental apartments, a public market, and small-unit retail,[15] while also preserving 23 of 27 heritage houses on site.[16] The project is notable for its public consultation process, which was lauded by Toronto city officials.[16] Architect Henriquez and the developer had previously collaborated on mixed-use projects in Vancouver, British Columbia, including the successful Woodward's Redevelopment.[17]

United States[edit]

Mixed-use spaces developed in Portland, Oregon

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborates with local governments by providing researchers developing new data that estimates how a city can be impacted by mixed-use development. With the EPA putting models in the spreadsheet, it makes it much easier for municipalities, and developers to estimate the traffic, with Mixed-use spaces. The linking models also used as a resource tool measures the geography, demographics, and land use characteristics in a city. The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted an analysis on six major metropolitan areas using land usage, household surveys, and GIS databases. States such as California, Washington, New Mexico, and Virginia have adopted this standard as statewide policy when assessing how urban developments can impact traffic. Preconditions for the success of mixed-use developments are employment, population, and consumer spending. The three preconditions ensure that a development can attract quality tenants and financial success. Other factors determining the success of the Mixed-use development is the proximity of production time, and the costs from the surrounding market.[18]


Mixed-use zoning has been implemented in Portland, Oregon since the early 1990s, when the local government wanted to reduce the then-dominant car-oriented development style. Portland's light rail system MAX encourages the mixing of residential, commercial, and work spaces into one zone. With this one-zoning-type planning system, the use of land at increased densities provides a return in public investments throughout the city. Main street corridors provide flexible building heights and high density uses to enable "gathering places".[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Business Geography and New Real Estate Market Analysis, Grant Ian Thrall, p.216
  2. ^ a b "Quality Growth Toolkit: Mixed-use Development" (PDF). Atlanta Regional Commission. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-11-28.
  3. ^ Raman, Rewati; Roy, Uttam Kumar (2019-11-01). "Taxonomy of urban mixed land use planning". Land Use Policy. 88: 104102. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.104102. ISSN 0264-8377.
  4. ^ a b "American Planning Association, "Planning and Community Health Research Center: Mixed Use Development". Archived from the original on 2013-02-07. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  5. ^ Hirt, Sonia (2012). "Mixed Use by Default". Journal of Planning Literature. 27 (4): 375–393. doi:10.1177/0885412212451029. S2CID 154219333.
  6. ^ Hoppenbrouwer, Eric; Louw, Erik (2005). "Mixed-use development: Theory and practice in Amsterdam's Eastern Docklands". European Planning Studies. 13 (7): 967–983. doi:10.1080/09654310500242048. S2CID 154169103.
  7. ^ "This is Smart Growth" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. April 2014. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  8. ^ Schuetz, Jenny; Giuliano, Genevieve; Shin, Eun Jin (February 21, 2018). "California wants cities to build more housing near transit hubs. Can LA improve its track record on TOD?". Brookings Institution. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  9. ^ Laitos, Jan G.; Abel, Teresa H. (2011). "The Role of Brownfields as Sites for Mixed use Development Projects in America and Britain". Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 40 (1–3): 492.
  10. ^ "Mixed Use Zoning", Livable New York Resource Manual
  11. ^ "Planning for Mixed Use: Affordable for Whom?" (PDF).
  12. ^ Hume, Christopher (2015-03-20). "Honouring his parents at Honest Ed's site". The Star. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  13. ^ "Honest Ed's and Mirvish Village" (PDF). City of Toronto. 2017-03-17. p. 26. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  14. ^ "By-law No 569-2013" (PDF). City of Toronto Zoning By-law. 2019-07-15. p. 6. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  15. ^ Bozikovic, Alex (2015-03-05). "Redevelopment of Honest Ed's in Toronto holds several surprises". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  16. ^ a b Bozikovic, Alex (2018-05-17). "Honest Ed's redevelopment shows what it takes to make a Village". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  17. ^ Bula, Frances (2010-01-04). "From slum to new urban mix". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  18. ^ "Mixed-Use Trip Generation Model". 2013-04-28.
  19. ^ "Mixed Use Zones Project Assessment Report". City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]