2016 is shaping up to be the year of mixed-use developments. This couldn’t ring more true for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, mixed-use is the new trend everyone wants to be a part of. With their blend of retail, office, and living space, it makes this concept very attractive to today’s renter. The multifunctional spaces in a relatively small footprint just make good business sense, and this is why we are seeing so many projects underway in prime locations such as Plano, Frisco, Coppell, and Richardson.
The great thing is this even translates well for redevelopment within the urban core. Mixed-use development allows for individualized planning within each project. We don’t want another cookie cutter apartment building, rather a community within a city that meets the needs of its residents. So what are the key factors of a successful mixed-use development?
Instead of focusing on the urban core vs urban-suburbia, residents simply want walkability. The resident of a multi-use property is looking for a live-work-dine location. Within their community, residents are seeking dry cleaners, restaurants, banks, grocery stores, and retail. They want to save their car for weekends out of town. To accomplish this we need pedestrian safe experience. When they do decide to get out “town” they need to be close to major highways and public transportation. Developing a mixed-use project that is close to employment or offers convenient methods of transportation is often a major selling factor.
To be mixed-use, you must be (strategically) mixed. Establishing at least one or two anchor components that can support the entire project is important. However, you are going to need to mix the space, get some diversity in there, and potentially challenge the zoning laws. Think about it, up until the 20th century, our entire country was mixed-use. It wasn’t until zoning laws were introduced in the early 1900’s that we relegated certain industries to certain areas and our living became so compartmentalized. These zoning laws had great intentions and still have their place, but sometimes rules are there to be bent.
Instead of building the development so the people come to you, a smart developer will build where the people and employment growth already exist. The saying “if you build it, they will come” isn’t always true in real estate. In this case, targeting locations that are experiencing significant employment growth, such as Plano and Frisco, is going to be more successful than targeting the urban core where mixed-use developments are already underway and employment growth is not as substantial.
No body wants to see another strip mall. Suburbia is plagued with them. If their job is going to be in suburbia, and it makes sense for them to live, work, play in the suburbs, then they want to make coming home a pleasure. Look for architecture that is going to be of significance to the area while not being a departure from current designs in the area. Thoughtful details, high-end finishes, and amenities. The people that want to be part of a mixed-use project want to be part of a lifestyle. They want to be part of a community and the architecture should be cohesive and significant.
Mixed-use projects are really how we settled land in the beginning with multiple uses in one smaller footprint. It’s always interesting to watch us return to our hypothetical roots and do things “the old way”. Maybe our ancestors had it right after all.