Mixed-use developments are more ambitious and diverse than ever.
By Kenneth E. Betz, Senior Editor
Mixed-use buildings and neighborhoods are not a new thing. In cities and small towns, retail has long been located on the ground floor while offices or residences were located above. After all, those workers and residents were a built-in market for the businesses at their foot. But today, expectations for mixed-use developments are higher, more specific, and more inclusive.
Customers and tenants of mixed-use developments are looking for more than just a coffee shop, run-of-the-mill office space, or a mundane apartment. “It is a race to provide every individual amenity in the market in this current building cycle. These sorts of amenities are becoming standard. Being pet friendly, for example, is becoming standard. Sports-related facilities and areas within the building [i.e., bike (or gear) wash stations as well as dog wash areas] are common, as are shared kitchen and lounge areas for entertaining friends and that serve as an extension to small apartments,” observed Jim Graham, co-founder, Graham Baba Architects, Seattle.
Even features such as green roofs shouldn’t be ruled out, Graham said. “In Seattle, much of this is a code-required minimum. Locally, green amenities have become a required point of entry in order to compete in the marketplace,” he said.
Millennials and older, retired couples are generally the demographics targeted by developers. Family-oriented offerings, so far, seem to be few and far between, Graham noted.
In addition, mixed-use developments have evolved to include more uses than the traditional office/retail or residential/retail model. “University Village in Seattle recently expanded with a mixed-use parking, retail, and medical office/clinic building that works very well. We have done several buildings in town that integrate office/retail/residential,” Graham commented.
While adaptive-reuse projects have flourished in older cities, Graham thinks
new construction is far less expensive and results in a better ROI. “In some cases, the façade of an existing character structure is retained and a new structure built behind and above. This gives thin presence to the past, but only from the exterior. Inserting and threading a new structure through and above the older building results in the most character and better experience, but is more complex and costly,” he said.
Mixed-use is longer just for cities, either. “We should be focusing development energies to infilling our urban realm as well as existing low-to-medium density suburban areas. Densifying already settled areas enables us to preserve rural or undeveloped settings that are that much closer to areas that are built up,” Graham said.
Clearly, mixed-use development is influenced by social and economic changes that impact most areas of the built environment today. Following are a few examples of recent built or planned projects.
Chophouse Row, Seattle
Chophouse Row, designed by Graham Baba Architects in collaboration with Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young (SKL) Architects, both of Seattle, was created from a collection of contiguous properties within a single block in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Rather than consider the eclectic mix of buildings and empty space an impediment to development, the owner recognized the value of the structures’ hard-won patina and unique character. By integrating a diverse, mutually supportive combination of activities that includes living, working, and retail in one contiguous array of spaces, the development results in a village within a village, according to the Graham Baba website.
The design solution knits these disparate properties together using new pedestrian corridors and connections between old and new space to create a truly mixed-use project. Challenges for the project included resolving the 11-ft. change in elevation between the east and west boundaries of the site, interweaving old and new structures, and stacking mixed-uses in the same building, including live/work/retail/parking. Public spaces and connections to other buildings on the block are born through the strategic removal of existing parts of buildings—back doors become front doors, and open space is created from previously solid edges. Materials removed during demolition find a second life as siding, flooring, stair treads, and windows.
The five-story addition (plus two mezzanine levels) essentially merges with the existing Chophouse—the roof deck of the old building becomes the floor of an office in the new building. Blending between old and new extends throughout the project, resulting in a single building type classification for the project. This attitude is evident in tenant spaces as well, especially those at the ground floor, where individual restaurants and retail shops occupy both old and new space. Naturally ventilated, the 43,800-sq.-ft. project features a series of loft-like floors and adjoining decks and balconies that provide territorial views to the neighborhood and back into the site. The result is a human-scaled destination that is distinguished through its insistence upon incremental urbanism rather than large-scale monoculture.
Park and Market, San Diego
Carrier Johnson + CULTURE’s (San Diego) design for Park & Market development integrates a mix of public and private uses, including a 34-story residential tower, destination retail venues at street-level, restaurant space, room for use by UC-San Diego, and below-grade parking for 560 cars. The project also includes work to preserve the historic Remmen Building located on the site, as well as a themed public plaza celebrating the neighborhood and its history.
“The combination of scales and uses will help ensure the development serves as a vibrant mixed-use community, while also bringing a major institution of learning to San Diego’s downtown,” said Michael Johnson, AIA, NCARB, design principal and partner at Carrier Johnson + CULTURE.
Park & Market is one of two new San Diego projects on city-owned land by Carrier Johnson + CULTURE. Project teams competed to win development agreements. Proceeds from the city deals will bolster the city’s affordable-housing fund.
In addition to Park & Market’s 426-unit residential tower with 85 affordable residences, the $280-million project includes a 66,000-sq.-ft. office building to house a satellite campus for the Univ. of California San Diego Extension, called the “Innovative Cultural and Education Hub.” UC San Diego’s strategic decision to invest in the project reflects new transit lines to be added nearby, including two trolley lines serving nearby communities and linking to UC San Diego’s main campus.
Filling out the Park & Market site is an expansive public plaza with a new terrace and amphitheater for concerts and events, as well as a historic structure—the 1907 craftsman-style Remmen House—to be renovated and adapted for restaurant and retail uses.
“The mix of new uses, the coming trolley lines, and the overall urban gesture lay real groundwork for a new vertical neighborhood to accelerate the transformation of the East Village into a center of innovation,” said Johnson.
“The combination of scales and uses will help ensure Park & Market serves as a vibrant mixed-use community, while also bringing a major institution of learning to San Diego’s downtown,” he added.
“The community will be filled with entrepreneurs, makers, artists, and every type of creative person San Diego has to offer. There will be a space for each type to thrive,” said David Gonzalez, a design leader at Carrier Johnson + CULTURE.
Designed by Carrier Johnson + CULTURE for the developer Holland Partners, Vancouver, WA, construction of Park & Market is slated to begin in 2018, with an anticipated completion date of 2021 for the estimated $280-million complex.
Woodward Garden Apartments, Detroit
Woodward Garden Apartments, located at 3909 Woodward Avenue in Detroit, is connected to the adjacent Woodward Garden Theater (also designed by McIntosh Poris Associates, Detroit). Both structures anchor the 3900 block of Woodward Avenue in Detroit’s Midtown District. The location is one block from the Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital of Michigan. It’s also in close proximity to Wayne State Univ. and Detroit Institute of Arts.
The apartments were part of the fourth, and final, phase of the 15-yr. Woodward Garden Block Development, and followed the restoration of the Woodward Garden Theater. The program for the five-story, mixed-use building includes 11,000 sq. ft. of commercial/retail/educational space at the ground level and 61 market-rate apartments, consisting of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units on floors two through five.
Because of the site’s historic nature, district codes required the building’s exterior to have a masonry skin, which was beyond the project budget. McIntosh Poris developed instead a loose interpretation of a “masonry exterior” and creatively designed the façade with a highly efficient fiber-cement panel rainscreen system. To resolve the Main Street Overlay’s required corner enhancement, the architects used unconventional methods by setting back the building’s corner and creating a void to serve as a private outdoor balcony for corner units.
A dynamic façade was introduced through the use of color and a panel joint composition. Yellow and dark-gray color selections intentionally contrast with the adjacent Woodward Garden Theater to provide a fresh interpretation to the ubiquitous limestone detailing seen as a staple in historical buildings around the district.
The building’s amenities include access to an outdoor terrace located on the second floor, which not only provides a private retreat, but also ensures all units benefit from the quality of natural light.
Residents have direct access to the adjacent parking garage from the second-floor lobby to provide secured, covered parking. The 4,000-sq.-ft. basement is dedicated to additional tenant storage, and space for the boiler system heated by Detroit Thermal’s steam system.
Located on the ground floor is the Michigan Research Studio, an off-campus facility by the Univ. of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, offering the college preparatory Architecture Prep Program to Detroit public high school students. The 3,715-sq.-ft. open facility emulates a collegiate design studio, emphasizing creative learning through multiple teaching environments in the same space.
The Monroe Blocks, Detroit
Located at the center of the spokes that connect greater Detroit, the Monroe Blocks development will combine what the developer says to be downtown Detroit’s first high-rise office tower in a generation with more than 480 residential units.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, Copenhagen, has been working in close collaboration with developer Bedrock Detroit, local architects Neumann Smith, engineering firm Buro Happold, and landscape architects SLA to imagine a development that re-establishes historic alleyways, introduces new public plazas and green space, and prioritizes the public realm indoors and out. The new office tower will offer a combination of large floor plates, tall ceiling heights, and access to sunlight currently unusual in downtown Detroit.
Monroe Blocks will make a diverse reflection on urban life, according to Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The mix of uses allows space for varied activities complementing each other to make safe, vibrant 24-hr. public spaces. Functions include office, residential, high-street retail, grocery stores and food markets, entertainment, sport and leisure facilities, and the potential for exhibition spaces and performance venues.
The Monroe Blocks project connects some of the city’s key central public spaces: Cadillac Square, Campus Martius, Library Square, and Woodward Avenue. These new connections will not only bind the city center but will also enrich, strengthen, and unify the already popular public spaces, according to an SHL news release.
“What we’re doing from a public space standpoint within the development is going to be special,” said Dan Mullen, president of Bedrock’s real estate arm. “It’s not just a big, tall building. It’s a big, tall building that interacts with street level and public spaces throughout. There’s going to be different pods and nods of great spaces to hang out and for people to get together.”
The Monroe Blocks development is set to break ground in early 2018 and will complete in early 2022.