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Mixed-use developments: what does the future hold?

Published: 6th August 2021
Area: Development Strategy
What is the future of mixed-use developments?

A mixed-use development traditionally contains two or more major use types, such as residential, commercial or office space. In recent years, these developments had been growing in popularity, providing a boost to both town and city centres.

However, the pandemic has shifted attitudes towards both housing and retail, so how could this impact mixed-use developments in the future?

Changes to design

The pandemic will undoubtedly change the way mixed-use spaces are designed. The concept that people’s dwellings are also their workspaces is a shift from the established norm and this should have an impact on both house design and the environment in which people live.

People are discovering how remote working can benefit them in the ‘new normal’. It offers flexibility and, in many cases, people feel like they are more productive. However, there is a risk of social isolation and managing mental health has become increasingly important. Mixed-use spaces have a significant role to play in responding to changing work and life trends.

Shifting requirements

People’s physical and mental wellbeing should be placed at the forefront of mixed-use developments. It’s important that they enable people to feel connected to society and a community, as well as to live healthier, happier lives. A considered approach to mixed-use in response to emerging trends following the pandemic can provide that.

The specific elements of a mixed-use development need to be carefully considered and should be bespoke to that community’s needs and aspirations. Key questions might be: what is the anchor use and what other uses can support it?

The pandemic has led to reduced transport use across the board. People would likely welcome this change long-term if things such as better public amenities, local shops and high-quality open spaces were ‘on their doorstep’ and travelling wasn’t such a necessity.

Accelerating the inevitable

The pandemic has simply accelerated changes that were already coming. Innovative advances in technology and communications have allowed remote working to succeed, and businesses to survive the pandemic.

If COVID-19 had hit 10 years ago, it would have been a very different story and companies would have struggled to adapt and operate.

Online retail was already an established feature of people’s lives pre-COVID. Now, e-commerce is even more popular. The question for mixed-use development is around how it can provide a retail offering that works in tandem with e-commerce and strikes a balance between access to local shops and national brands.

Hospitality and leisure businesses will feature in mixed-use developments more prominently too. Many restaurants, bars, and pubs have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and have been forced to adapt as well. In terms of a mixed-use environment, factors such as outdoor seating have led to improved shared spaces, fostering a stronger connection between customers and the surrounding public realm. In turn, this helps strengthen the connection between people and the community in which they live; a key goal of mixed-use development.

The pandemic may have altered the priorities of both people and businesses, but ultimately these societal changes suit the aims of mixed-use developments. By taking into consideration the needs of residents, these developments could continue to boom in popularity in the future.

Alex recently spoke to Design & Build Review about the role that mixed-use developments will play in responding to changing work and life trends - see more here.

To learn more, get in touch with the team at our specialist planning consultancy, Marrons Planning.

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