Citizens, politicians, developers, financial institutions and planning officials have embraced the need to once again allow for mixed-use developments, otherwise known as traditional developments, to be legal within the ordinances and financing schemes that control community growth.   The appeal of this development type has transformed the way cities approach planning, how banks finance projects, and what developers and real estate professionals offer in terms of services.

Why the intense interest?  Today’s markets demand well-considered developments for two reasons.  First, the values generated by properly designed and planned mixed-use projects are many multiples over standard conventional suburban development.  From the building program, through the master plan and phasing, to the process engaged to deliver them, mixed use developments integrate and build value from beginning to end for owners, developers, tenants and the municipality.   Second, the negative impacts, financially, socially and environmentally, on municipalities, residents and businesses of conventional developments have begun to be quantified.  The consensus is that we can no longer afford to build in any other way.  Mixed-use has become the responsible and financially lucrative alternative. 

Traditional, mixed-use development comes in many scales and forms, but the term "mixed-use" is often misunderstood, because of outdated zoning and/or the length of time since it was more commonly built.  Today mixed-use zones are usually required to declare a primary and secondary use, with the development standards of both uses redundantly stacked together, and the primary use controlling the building’s configuration, orientation and disposition, thereby marginalizing the building’s ability to effectively host secondary uses.  In addition, a mixed-use zoning designation means that a landowner has the right to ‘choose’ a specific use, such as either Commercial or Residential.  While the zoning district allows a list of different uses, only one can be chosen, making the implementation still single-use.  Another common misunderstanding about mixed-use is that many believe that it only equates, on any street or in any context, to a shop front with housing above. 

Real mixed-use development makes for three-dimensional, pedestrian-oriented places that layer compatible land uses, public amenities, and utilities together at various scales and intensities. This variety of uses allows for people to live, work, play and shop in one place, within walking distance.  While mixed-use can take on many forms, it’s typically categorized as either A) vertical mixed-use buildings; or B) horizontal mixed-use blocks.

Vertical Mixed-Use Building: Combines different uses in the same building. Lower floors should have more public uses, with more private uses on the upper floors. For example, the ground floor might have retail, the second floor and up might have professional offices, and the uppermost floors might be some form of residential such as flats or a hotel. In more urban areas, an entire block or neighborhood may be composed of vertical mixed-use buildings.

Horizontal Mixed-Use Blocks: Combines single-use buildings on distinct parcels in a range of land uses within the same block. In more urban areas, this approach avoids the financing and coding complexities of vertical layered uses while achieving the goal of placemaking that is made possible by bringing together complementary uses in one place. In less urban areas, horizontal mixed-use offers the advantage of sharing utilities and amenities while providing an easier to build and entitle mix of uses within a walkable block circumscribed by streets and open spaces.

Both categories are components of one another.  They can be built as infill within a downtown on a small site, or on a large greenfield further from the existing center.  Regardless location and size, the common attribute of mixed-use development is that it addresses the more complex lives we live today.  As a result, people value it more and municipalities encourage it over segregated pods of development, which offer only-work, only-shopping, only-living, and only-recreation, with the need to drive to each. 

Process: The mixing of uses is a catalyst to building complete, compact, complex and competitive projects.  It facilitates efficient access to where people live, work, play and shop via walking, biking, transit and/or cars. Conventional zoning, financing, and approval processes are the opposite of mixed-use.  Therefore, to properly engage and deliver mixed-use developments, a municipality must work in a multi-disciplinary process to create a Code that establishes parameters within which development must comprehensively address the needs of community.   Such codes are commonly referred to as Form Based.  The CODE・Brevard Project will expound on the techniques of Form Based Coding to achieve an even higher level of Design Performance Coding.

 

Sample pages from a Form-Based Code

Sample pages from a Form-Based Code