Challenges for Mixed-Use Facilities

Mixed Use Overview

 The magic of the mixed-use building is the various markets that you can accommodate.  This brings an added calm to the project knowing that with the various markets, different economic turns can be weathered.  To weather these economical turns tt is often noted that to keep the development financially viable 4-5 different types of uses should be included in the development.  If people stop eating and the restaurants close, then the office, retail, hotel, apartments / hotel will keep producing income until people start eating again.

The economic impact can be very significant to the local economy.  With people living, working, dining and shopping in the vicinity and lending a 24 / 7 excitement to the area, new and existing businesses will have the opportunity to thrive.  This curb appeal will bring in customers and clients who are looking for the excitement.

Guideline by the numbers:

·         5 – A good number of different uses that will help to economically support the facility.

·         30 – Percentage of gross area to be attributed to residential / hotel.

·         2/3 - Maximum gross square footage associated to one use.

Fitting in the neighborhood

·         Fitting into the neighborhood can be a major hurdle to overcome.  Involving local officials, businesses and neighbors will be a key to obtaining approval.  Designing a new mixed-use facility must consider the local architecture and scale of the surrounding structures.  However, this does not mean that a new architectural style can’t be introduced with special care and  create an architectural statement that will benefit the local surroundings. 

·         Fitting into the neighborhood also includes allowing new type of businesses that will help improve and accentuate the existing businesses and neighbors.

·         It is all about communication with the local authorities and the surrounding residences and business.  Keep all parties involved and your project will run smoothly.


One of the biggest issues with a Mixed-Use structure is “where is everybody going to park?”. A large benefit that a mixed-use development is supposed to help with is reducing the dependence on the automobile.  However, some of the time it becomes one of the biggest issues.  Parking needs to be laid out in such a manner that separates the tenants from the public use spaces.

The most common types of parking are:

§  Street Parking

§  Surface Parking

§  Parking Garage

§  Under the structure

One concept to reduce parking is the idea of “Shared parking” (mixed-use structure with various uses that don’t require a large amount of parking at the same time).  This can be perceived as the ideal parking arrangement.  However, this can also become a major problem if not handled correctly both from the design aspect and maintaining of the parking areas. The general public is very consciences about parking and its location to the businesses that are about to visit.

·          The occupancy of the mixed-use development will determine the type and location of parking.

      • Are the residential units’ ones that are purchased (Condos) vs ones that are rented (Apartments)? Each of these types of residences will demand different expectations for parking.

      • What type of businesses and operational times will be associated with the development?

        • Office (open 8am – 6 pm)

        • Retail (open 8am -8pm)

        • Restaurants / Bars (6am -2 am)

The cost of a parking space can vary greatly depending on the type of parking space constructed:

·         Surface parking – $1,000-$3,500 per space

·         Structured parking – $7,000-$20,000 per space

·         Underground parking – $15,000-$35,000 per space


Basic parking requirements:

Commercial        1 space per 200 square feet.

Residential          2-2 ½” spaces per 2-bedroom unit

1-1   ½ space per 1-bedroom unit


Security is an essential part of a mixed-use facility requiring special requirements for both residential and commercial.  The key to a secure structure is to separate the users from one another while not deterring pedestrian mobility. 

One of many early design issues is to be aware of the separation of the various functions and accesses to these functions.  All mixed-use facilities will have various types of required accesses to the individual levels.  For example, you don’t want bar patrons having access to the office portion of the facility or restaurant goers having access to the residential portion of the development

A simple solution to this problem is to make sure there are clear and properly located signage.

Security can be accomplished electronically by the following

·         Cameras

·         Key cards

·         Guards

·         Gates

·         Lighting

Noise Transfer

Noise transfer from one use to another is a difficult nuisance that will be required to be address in the early design phase of the project.  Sound travels in waves. In the air the sound is produced by fluctuations in air pressure. In solid building materials, sound can be produced by impact and vibration and progresses as vibration. When dealing with sound proofing there are two ratings you must take into consideration, (STC) for airborne sound and (IIC) for impact sound.  When constructing a mixed-use structure, cost is always a driving factor and sometimes noise transfer reduction measures are reduced to save on cost. This is not a quality of construction that you want to try and save costs. The cost will be minimal in relation to the health benefits of the residents, workers and patrons and less complaints from your tenants.

High performing sound isolation assemblies utilize three principles:

·         Mass of construction materials such as concrete slabs or plywood subfloors.

·         Airspace between construction components.

·         Resilient isolation element used to integrate mass and airspace.

Trash and smells

When constructing a mixed-use development, trash and smells are the unfortunate side effect of the various types of businesses that occupy the structures, specifically restaurants and bars.  Trash must be dealt with a way that allows easy access for the various business while allowing for storing and removal of trash in a discrete manner. 

Smells can become an issue when restaurants and bars are located on the lower level. These types of uses will require separated mechanical systems.  

Fire separation

For each use, building codes require different fire suppression methods, and in a mixed-use these can become even more stringent due to the mixture and higher density.  Fire separation from various unites can range from 1 hour to 3 hours depending on the type of uses.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a major concern when working in today’s ecofriendly world.  Long gone are the days were energy was just something you used.   We are now understanding the benefits of using eco friendly products.  This includes energy efficient appliances, high-efficient heating and cooling, geothermal, solar and wind.  There are additional upfront costs but the benefits out way the extra cost.  People like the idea of being environmentally friendly.  We are not doing if for us, we are doing it for the future generations.  This is the wave of the future.


These are just a few samples of the unique issues that might apply to a whole array of mixed-use projects.  Knowing each project is a unique opportunity and no matter what type of project it is, each project has challenges that can be turned into opportunities.  When all the various components are considered in the early stages of the design process, accommodations can be crafted before the challenges become problems.