Mixed-Use 3.0

Where design and community converge

Atlantic Station in Atlanta
Caption Atlantic Station in Atlanta

What’s the Point?

What's the point of a mixed-use community in a world where you can work and shop without leaving home? Until now, multi-use development has centered largely on being practical. But convenience is no longer enough to entice people to live, work or play in mixed-use properties. More and more, what matters now are the people and experiences we can expect once we get there.

Mixed-use 3.0, the emerging new model for multipurpose and multifunctional development, puts people first. It creates a sense of belonging, becoming the center of gravity in a community. It brings people together as social creatures, helping combat the loneliness epidemic. And it creates all-new value for an asset class that’s reaching faster stabilization and higher rental rates than other single-asset classes—while enhancing surrounding submarket performance at the same time.

To understand the benefits of reimagining mixed-use, it’s useful to look at how we got here — and where we go next.

Mixed-use design then

Mixed-use concepts have a long history in city life around the world. Born out of convenience, they later became a way to help people feel human in urban environments. For centuries, people commonly lived and worked in the same place, blending the first place (home) and second place (work) for convenience and efficiency. Here, shopkeepers, bakers, cobblers, and other business owners lived above their storefronts, creating the original city planning format with ground floor retail and residential above.

During the Industrial Revolution, however, the concept of a single-use property took over, as people began working in factories and separating home and work life. Amid the rise of the suburbs, real estate shifted toward entirely separate residential communities and retail centers, moving away from mixed-use altogether with shopping malls becoming the main retail destination.

The Global Financial Crisis in the 2010s brought people back downtown—not just for work. In this wave of re-urbanization, cities offered adaptive reuse ordinances to help developers transform vacant warehouses and dilapidated office buildings into sprawling residential and retail campuses. Referred to as Mixed-use 2.0, this movement represented a return to an older style of living, where people wanted to connect with others and run errands in a single location.

Mixed-use design now: A third space is born

With the rise of remote work prompting a rise in loneliness, many people today crave more connective spaces outside their homes or offices. Meanwhile the ubiquity of online shopping has shoppers less keen on patronizing brick-and-mortar plazas as a matter of convenience, and more as an opportunity to share authentic brand experience. Increasingly, people are feeling drawn to mixed-use developments where they can work, live, shop, dine, and play in a social environment.

Mixed-use 3.0 creates that ‘third space’ people need now more than ever—a social, experiential setting where people choose to gather, again and again, with each other.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of mixed-use 3.0 principles in action.

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  • Creating a mini-city in an innovation hub – A transformative mixed-use development can become the dynamic social hub of innovation-driven communities like the Research Triangle Park in Cary, North Carolina. By converting 92 acres of empty land into a curated mix of shops, restaurants, offices, and luxury apartments, Fenton fuels creativity, collaboration, and engagement in a vibrant setting.
  • Providing unique experiences, for unique people. “People want to know what type of community you are building,” says Varun Akula, Managing Director, Hines. West Edge in Los Angeles offers a prime example of catering to a particular audience: gamers. With Riot Games as the anchor tenant, Hines tailored design to help draw techies and gamers out of their offices with offerings including Gelson’s, a gourmet and specialty grocery store; frequent activations like movie nights, trivia contests, pet adoptions, and a local-artist-led “mural fest,” with DJs and food; and access to a nearby e-sports arena. “It doesn’t happen naturally,” says Akula. “You have to think about how each part of the community can create value for each other part.”
  • Making a positive impact, for people and planet – More people are demanding live, work and play options that enhance community and the environment alike. The visionary, mixed-use Bayside project, for instance, is part of Waterfront Toronto’s 2,000-acre revitalization plan—the largest such initiative currently underway in the world. When complete, Bayside Toronto will contain more than 2 million square feet of residential, mass timber office, retail and cultural uses all designed to positively impact the surrounding area.

It’s time to reimagine the point of mixed-use design

From making life more convenient to fostering reurbanization, mixed-use developments have played an important role in modern real estate development history. Looking ahead, Mixed-use 3.0 represents the next great leap forward: creating spaces where human connection—in all its multiplicities—comes alive.

Want to learn more?

Download our thought paper on Mixed-Use 3.0