People have been spending more time at home this year. With recent social distancing requirements in effect, fewer trips are needed to go to work, school, and even to run errands, compared to just eight months ago. At the start of our “Design: A New Way Forward” series, we explored the future of retail in a post-pandemic world. We are now diving into how the latest impacts are affecting residential mixed-use developments, especially from what we’ve been observing through our research and planning for current clients.

Adaptable and Integrated Spaces

At SGPA, we’ve seen a surge in the demand for mixed-use developments where residents can live, work, and play. Our clients wish to create environments where residents feel enhanced personal connections to their community, even in a populated urban setting. Creating integration with the outdoors and focusing on transit-oriented developments all contribute to building a dynamic neighborhood. These residential mixed-use areas near transit centers create a walkable community, especially to those residents that want to limit their carbon footprint.

Developers are fine-tuning their tenant-mix to create communities that appeal to everyone, drawing in residents who enjoy the convenience and neighborhood feel of an urban village. Creating adaptable shells for mixed-use components is key to ensuring perpetual growth. The pandemic has forced many commercial and retail spaces to shut down their larger-square foot sites in favor of smaller, satellite locations. As a result, more land is becoming available for mixed-use opportunities, while existing communities are bringing in coveted retailers into their projects.

Moving into the Suburbs

As people continue to work and attend school from home, suburban areas are becoming more desirable for mixed-use developers. Now that people are not commuting as frequently to central business districts, there is new interest in living further out from job centers. Many outlying communities contain large centralized retail properties that have become under-utilized over the years as certain types of retail has evolved and migrated online. Investors are now taking advantage of these opportunities by inserting residential uses in these formerly all-retail properties.

Affordable Housing

Recently, municipalities are trying to include more affordable housing developments.  The demand for affordable housing has significantly increased over the last several years. In addition, we have noticed a newer trend of combining affordable housing with mixed-use components. Many affordable housing developers are willing to invest in a mixed-use value system that is community-driven. For example, a child-care facility, mental health center, or a wellness studio are all uses that would benefit most communities. Although this would come as an extra cost to market-rate developments, it creates win-win opportunities for affordable housing. 

Similar to what we’ve seen in different industries, design and planning ideas that were coming into fruition before the pandemic are now being accelerated. As people are remaining in their homes, many seek personal human connection within their own urban and suburban communities. This has resulted in a more personal, human-driven focus for residential mixed-use developments.

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