icon Blueprint for December

A New Kind of Synergy

3 min read

The first recorded example of a mixed-use development is from ancient Rome, Trajan’s Market—believed to have been built between 100 and 110 AD—in which shops, government offices and apartments were built into a multi-level structure. (It is also believed to be the world’s oldest shopping mall.) The still-standing structure has captivated imaginations as a model of daily Roman life.

Like Trajan’s Market, the idea of mixed-use developments, its advantages and conveniences are captivating for planners, developers, community advocates and government officials.

In the Gilded Age, with the emergence of family storefront dwellings, urban economies boomed, and neighborhoods blossomed with homes, jobs and lively urban activity. (The Guru Is In)

In the last three decades, the densification of cities made mixed-use not only convenient but essential; spawning a new period of revitalization. We are seeing buildings with spaces for retail stores, offices, residential and parking, or any combination thereof.

Mixed-use developments can be complicated but are worth the effort. With some detailed planning and the right market, “a good mixed-use development can boost the profile of an entire neighborhood and kickstart much-needed economic development.” (Legally Speaking)

Revitalization continues with mixed-use projects like Beverly Village for Living and the Arts in Massachusetts and the Freelon at Sugar Hill in Detroit. Beverly Village, formerly Briscoe School, is a mixed-use community centered around affordable housing for seniors. (Case Study: The Briscoe School in Beverly, MA) Freelon provides much-needed affordable housing for veterans, as well as jobs in a Detroit district with huge historic significance. (Case Study: The Freelon at Sugar Hill)

Today, mixed-use is no longer limited to a single building but stretches to entire districts. It’s a synergistic integration of cultural spaces, parks, walkable shopping centers, entertainment areas and public transportation. All of which enrich the urban fabric of our communities.

Also in this issue, be sure to read about National Multifamily Housing Council’s Housing Affordability Toolkit, which provides a “nuanced discussion of the growing housing affordability crisis and how it is impacting people across many income levels in communities throughout the nation.” (A Framework for Detailing How Local Policies Impact Housing Affordability)

And take a look inside the workforce housing struggle in Colorado’s mountain towns. The experiences in these resort towns mirror a nationwide trend of a market out of whack between growing populations and surges in the price of land, homes and rents. (“Nests, Not Nest Eggs,”)

We have evolved from structures like Trajan’s Market and the storefront dwellings of the late 1800s to today’s mixed-use developments, but the continued need for revitalization and more housing is vital. Mixed-use developments create vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities that promote a sense of belonging. Everyone should feel they belong somewhere. My hope for each of you this holiday season is that you are surrounded by that sense of belonging. Happy Holidays!

Jessica Hoefer