6 Key Elements for a Successful Mixed-Use Development Project
A mixed-use development is a project that combines two or more uses within a building or a site that complement and leverage each other to create a cohesive and successful ecosystem. Mixed-use developments have been the norm in urban areas, where they were a mix between retail on the ground level and other uses above the retail stores, such as offices, or residential apartments. There used to be no homogeny within one property parcel. Now, however, mixed-use developments have shifted to integrated rather than separated uses. They have become, not only a trend, but the new reality in urban design. Mixed-use development projects now vary in size, as they can range from small property parcels to larger scale complexes with a more unified architecture and design, shared entrances, common areas, and on-site amenities that are strategically aligned to serve all different types of tenants in the building.
Here are some fundamental architectural design elements for a successful mixed-use development project:
1- Plan the building implementation strategically: One of the most important elements in a mixed-use development is the way the project is integrated into the public realm, both physically and functionally. The aim of the building implementation is to create a unique harmony between the site, its design, its surrounding neighborhood, and the residents of the building. In fact, for the placement of a building to be properly executed, it should provide greater accommodation capacity for pedestrian circulation, make the public spaces adjacent to the building more appealing, encourage more activities and strengthen the link between the residences and businesses. This can be achieved by incorporating a full range of services that can create a walkable place where people can work, shop, eat, and most importantly, live. The building entrances should also be located along the main public sidewalks to attract more people and provide visual interest.
2- Plan each unit layout carefully: It is important within each unit to consider the design of every area based on its intended use, whether commercial, residential, or entertainment. The design of the units should be unified and should blend well together. Today, all architects and urban designers are leaning towards providing easily accessed common areas, such as sitting areas, hallways, stairs, and elevators, that would encourage the dwellers to interact more with each other, with the areas situated at equal distances from each other to help, rather than hinder, walkability. All rooms should also be designed with more natural lighting and ventilation to promote the health and well-being of the residents. On the other hand, a mix of unit types can provide lots of variety and flexibility, which could provide in itself different kinds of activities, entertainment and engagement.
3- Include different kinds of amenities: Just like the design and architecture of the building, site amenities contribute to the image and style of the mixed-use building. Outdoor spaces, for example, play a major role in the development of the building, as they can be used to avoid empty spaces and to encourage play, social, and cultural activities. On the other hand, courtyards, plazas, and gardens are often very desirable in mixed-use projects. They can be designed in the building to provide dining opportunities for the residents and visitors of the building and to encourage commercial and retail uses. They can provide a relaxing experience for visitors who wish to escape the urban streetscape environment. In addition, open spaces in the building and around it, whether public or private, should also be thoughtfully designed, with easy accessibility, visibility, and play areas surveillance in mind. In fact, sensitively designed public areas can turn good development into a greater development, helping provide a lasting amenity and better quality of life for all residents.
4- Provide a substantial landscape zone: If the mixed-use building frontage is at a distance from the street, it is important to provide some greenery and interesting landscape on the sidewalk. Good landscaping and trees help ensure that the visual definition of the street edge is well maintained and easy on the eye. Low walls and raised planters, for example, provide an attractive view for the visitors and pedestrians. They also emphasize the building entrances and provide good shading and a good seating area. Well maintained planters also soften the buildings intrusion on the public realm.
5- Be smart in the lighting placement: The basic role of lighting is to make the pedestrian environment safe and secure. Lighting fixtures should be anti-glare to reduce eyestrain and should be designed in a way that complements the architecture of the building. They should emphasize entry locations and improve the visual identification of the residences and the businesses in the building. Lighting can also be used to enhance the attractiveness of the building and put emphasis on a certain part of the building. Different types of lighting can be used here, such as wall mounted lighting, garden walls lighting, and tree lighting.
6- Create an energy-efficient and sustainable mixed-use building: Residents living in energy-efficient buildings can save lots of money, lead healthier lives, and contribute to a better environment. Energy-efficient mixed-use buildings often include garden roofs, for example, that allow the residents to have a better experience and make the building eco-friendly. On the other hand, cooling strategies, such as displacement ventilation, can also significantly improve comfort and reduce energy consumption. There are also different kinds of technologies and products that can help reduce the building’s impact on the environment, such as sealants, LED lighting, and other ventilation means.
In the Urban Design industry, a mixed-use development is always developing. To create a successful project, designers do not focus on the design of the building only. They also examine the lifestyles, health, and needs of the residents, and study the expectations of the people who will be living in the mixed-use building. The main job of the designer is to create a mixed-use project that seamlessly blends into its surroundings and respects the heritage of the site and the neighborhood, while considering different aspects in the planning strategy, such as cost, location, and building materials, which can all help create a successful project.