Uptick in Mixed-Use Development: Key Trends, Strategies, Shaping Design

MVE + Partners, Associated General Contractors of America, Passage at San Mateo
The Passage at San Mateo. Rendering Courtesy of MVE + Partners

By Kenneth Nilmeier 

In the past decade, mixed-use has become one of the fastest-growing and most desired product types in the U.S. And for good reason. From effective land use in dense, supply-constrained markets to diversification for investor portfolios and myriad community benefits, developers and investors alike are increasingly seeking opportunities to integrate product types. 

MVE + Partners, Associated General Contractors of America, Passage at San Mateo
Kenneth Nilmeier, Principal, Director of Planning, MVE + Partners

According to the Associated General Contractors of America,mixed-use development accounted for 80 percent of the $1.3 trillion spent on U.S. construction in 2017, and that number is anticipated to grow. With the goal of creating a central hub for locals, visitors and patrons, developers today are constantly innovating to stay on top of evolving consumer demands and lifestyle trends. Here’s a look at how consumer demands are driving this product type and the most effective design strategies that seamlessly blur the lines between public and private spaces. 

Demand for Walkable Communities 

Lifestyle preferences and consumer demands have evolved significantly in the past decade. Consumers today not only crave but expect convenience and connection. As a result, renters want apartment living that offers instant access to restaurants, grocery stores, retail and more without leaving their communities. 

Making up the largest generation today, Millennials are seeking the accessibility city centers offer. Baby Boomersalso are fueling the trend toward urbanization as they downsize in search of walkable communities’ chock-full of amenities. Consequently, there’s an influx in mixed-use development, and developers are in search of opportunities to ensure their projects are community-focused, pedestrian-friendly and provide a well-rounded experience. 

Fusing Public, Private Spaces 

When developing mixed-use properties, there are key trends and strategies developers should consider incorporating into their design process to create communities that both meet the needs of the locale and deliver optimal return on investment. These include:

·       Survey the Environment:A critical part of the design process is understanding the environment in which you’re working. Developers must ensure a mixed-use project makes sense for and adds value to the community. Key considerations include geography, traffic count, visibility, access to public transit and ability to incorporate parking. It’s also crucial to ensure that land uses function in the location with or without a mixed-use component. 

For example, MVE + Partners (MVE) is designing The Passage at San Mateo, a mixed-use development in a highly walkable community. The project features multifamily housing, co-working spaces, retail, restaurants, art galleriesand access to public transit. The geography enables MVE’s design to take advantage of the built-in energy and thriving environment and introduce key spaces including a physical passage that connects residents to 3.5 acres of public parks and open space, and “The Depot,”an artisan coffee shop and coworking hub. This project not only delivers much needed housing to the area but introduces a new level of the “Silicon Valley lifestyle.”

·      Know Your Audience: Density alone does not guarantee activity. Rather, developers must facilitate market and demographic research to unearth the needs and lifestyle preferences of the community and identify synergies. This practice informs the public and private spaces needed and allows developers to imagine mixed-use communities that add authenticity and vibrancy to the region.  

·       Foster a Sense of Community: To attract residents, locals and visitors, developers must create a social heart for the community to live, work and play.This requires seeing opportunities through the lens of residents to infuse meaningful spaces that become a fabric of the community and unite varying demographics. Examples include public art galleries, parks and green spaces, coffee shops, coworking environments and other such uses that fulfill daily needs.

Mixed-Use Trends, Spaces 

To bring consumers a unique living experience with access to vibrant spaces, developers need to think outside the box and find innovative solutions to meet consumer demands. Key trends and spaces include:

·      Multi-Purpose Environments: To imagine successful mixed-use properties, developers must find opportunities for efficient use of space. As a result, we’re seeing a growing demand for multi-purpose areas such as leasing centers, lobbies and clubrooms. These spaces can be designed to double as coworking environments featuring modern technology and myriad seating arrangements complete with a dynamic atmosphere where residents can connect, collaborate and ideate. 

·      Food and Beverage:Popularity of fast and casual food options are on the rise, and through careful curation this concept can certainly endure. The key to success lies in the ability to tailor the options to the community and maintain authenticity by providing relevant and inspiring food, design and architecture.

Designed to engage the entire community, MVE incorporatedS.E.E.D (Sensory Experience in Entertainment and Dining) into The Passage at San Mateo to realize the developer’s vision for a dynamic food hall and destination for the community to gather, connect and engage. SEED offers visitors fast, healthy and local options while drawing architectural inspiration from the adjacent Eichler-style homes. 

As more consumers seek walkable, accessible communities, mixed-use development will continue to flourish. It’s where people want to live, play and socialize, and investors feel secure in their short and long-term hold. By integrating key design strategies based on local consumer insights, developers can create new, dynamic communities and add energy to older ones – ultimately establishing a central hub that stimulates economic growth for years to come.

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