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Mixed-use development combines two or more types of land use into a building or set of buildings that are physically and functionally integrated and mutually supporting. This can be some combination of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, or other land uses. The form of mixed use development can be vertical or horizontal. Vertical mixed-use occurs when different uses inhabit the same building and sit atop one another, such as residential or office uses over ground floor retail. Horizontal mixed-use occurs when uses are placed next to each other, such as an apartment building that is adjacent to offices, restaurants, or retail shops. Mixed-use areas often create the main street/downtown, activity center, or commercial corricor of a local community, district, or neighborhood. Ideally mixed-use areas promote walkability, connect to public transit systems, and support principles of Transit-oriented development (TOD).
Many land use regulations prohibit or inadvertently discourage mixed-use development. This is based on the perceived functional and architectural incompatibility of uses and buildings. Mixed-use development standards are important in urban and rural communities because they can help establish a regulatory framework for Smart Growth and sustainable development. Mixed-use development standards can be flexible to promote a mix of uses and building forms or very strict in an effort to achieve a specific objective. Mixed-use development standards often address the same topics customary to other more traditional zoning districts such as permitted uses, landscaping, screening and buffering, signage, lighting, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, architectural design, access, and review processes. They also address topics specifically related to a mixed-use district, including a purpose statement, use mix and dimensional requirements, parking, and development incentives. In some cases, mixed-use development standards are more appropriately applied geographically in the form of an overlay district.
Mixed-use development standards should help provide clear direction to developers, decision-makers, staff, and community members on expectations for mixed-use development. Effectively integrating mixed-use within a community often requires a combination of revitalizing historically, mixed-use neighborhoods and identifying other areas where new mixed-use development will add value to the community.