Mixed-use Development

"Mixed-use" describes a land development containing two or more major types of uses (typically including residential, commercial, office, and institutional), each of which should attract a significant market share in its own right. Mixed-use has evolved incrementally over time in areas, but is also a more recent, specific form of development. Mixed-use reflects a physical and functional integration of its various components, which can be provided within a vertical mix of uses into a single mixed-use building, the planned positioning of key plan components around a central public space or land use (for example, a shopping center), or through a town center/urban village setting that interconnects uses through pedestrian friendly facilities. Mixed-use frequently involves stacking uses, usually residential or office uses over retail uses. The scale of mixed-use is highly dependent on the context—from a single urban parcel to the redevelopment of a collection of parcels within or adjacent to a developed area.

Municipal zoning ordinances can permit and regulate mixed-use land uses. Municipalities need to first determine where mixed-use should be permitted and create, or amend as necessary, ordinances to ensure that they permit and encourage the use. The details of the ordinance must reflect the form of mixed-use that a community is looking for, whether individual parcel infill or a completely new town center. Ordinances should provide for opportunities for the use of shared infrastructure and amenities, such as common parking and stormwater management facilities, which can be more cost effective and environmental friendly than providing similar facilities for uses on an individual basis.

New development of mixed-use town centers are typically organized around a street, pedestrian and public space network to function more like an urban area than a single development project. Large scale mixed-use development projects may require public/private partnerships to address issues such as roadway improvements required outside of the immediate project area for successful project implementation. These projects benefit from an initial feasibility analysis, along with appropriate marketing, promotion and operational management.


Including mixed-use development within a zoning ordinance can provide the following benefits:


The following limitations may be associated with mixed-use development ordinances:

How To Use This Tool

mixed-useThe municipal zoning ordinance regulates the variety of uses permitted within a zoning district. The evaluation of areas suitable to be zoned for mixed-use should address issues such as scale, size, access and visibility, proximity to other land uses, public transit opportunities, and existing utilities and infrastructure. Areas must allow for relatively high-density development of multiple uses and should be located in proximity to existing travel patterns and numerous access points. Potential mixed use areas should be situated within a centralized area of different uses and activities, providing the area with proximity to multiple land uses to facilitate appropriate infill development or new development that interrelates with adjacent existing development. Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) and Form Based Codes are two zoning types that can be utilized within a zoning ordinance to encourage mixed use development.

Depending on the scope of a community's vision for mixed-use, a municipality may need to amend its zoning ordinance so that use, area and bulk, design and environmental requirements can adequately manage development activity without being overly burdensome upon a developer. Consideration should be given to creating either a new mixed-use land use category or mixed-use zoning district. Design guidelines addressing all aspects of site design (area and bulk requirements, vehicular and pedestrian standards, landscaping, signage, lighting, etc.), should be specifically developed for this use. Consideration should also be given to streamlining the review process to allow the approval of mixed-use development in a reasonable time frame.


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