Toward a Definition of Mixed-Use

A panel at the recent Urban Land Institute conference in Houston considers the imperative of understanding mixed-use development and its various forms.
June 13, 2015, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Kyle Shelton examines the slippery definition of the term mixed-use, which can mean many things despite its central role in successful neighborhoods. The inspiration from the discussion followed a onael from the Urban Land Institute conference this year in Houston.

"Perhaps it should be obvious given their name, but mixed-use developments are rarely carbon copies of one another. Different topographies, financing needs, market aims, and developer visions may make one mixed-use project look entirely different from another just across the street," writes Shelton.

Shelton notes some of the important distinctions that get glossed over when mixed-use is allowed to be a catch-all term: "Can we call a suburban master-planned community that intentionally places homes, condos, retail, and office within a huge plot of land mixed-use? Or to receive such a label do projects need to be contained within a single large lot? What about an entire downtown? If architects lay out a comprehensive plan for a central business district (as ULI panelist Scott Johnson’s Johnson Fain did in Beijing) that includes several different uses, is it a mixed-use development?"

To begin to solidify a meaning for the term Shelton explains how panelists at the conference identified a few key elements of mixed-use (i.e., "at least three distinct uses, a connective green space, and the ability to allow users to live/work/play in same area), though such places could still vary drastically in scale and makeup.

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Published on Friday, May 29, 2015 in Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research
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