Mixed-Use Development

Issues Addressed:
Affordable Housing Housing Costs Housing Options Multigenerational Sustainable Housing

What is it?

Mixed-use development is a type of real estate development that combines multiple uses, such as residential, commercial, cultural, entertainment, and institutional, into a single development project. These types of developments can take many forms, including residential buildings with ground-floor retail space, office buildings with apartments on upper floors, or entire neighborhoods that mix different types of residential buildings with commercial, cultural, and institutional uses.

Mixed-use developments can be located in a variety of settings. In urban areas, mixed-use developments are often located in downtown areas, along commercial corridors, or in neighborhoods that are undergoing redevelopment. In suburban and rural settings, mixed-use developments may be located in traditional village centers, near shopping centers or strip malls, or they may be standalone developments that create a new mixed-use center in an area without one.

Mixed-use developments are typically designed to create a sense of community and to foster a variety of activities and interactions. Housing in mixed-use developments may take the form of apartments, condominiums, or townhouses, and may be designed to appeal to a range of income levels, household sizes, and physical abilities. Larger mixed-use developments often include amenities such as parks, playgrounds, and other public spaces to encourage socialization and economic activity.

How can it help?

Mixed-use development can…

  • Provide a range of housing options, including affordable housing, which can help to address the needs of a diverse population and promote economic diversity within the community.
  • Revitalize downtown areas by bringing new residents, businesses, and activity to the area. This can help to support local economic development and create a more vibrant and attractive community.
  • Reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by bringing residents closer to jobs, neighborhood retail, and other sources of trips.
  • Provide needed community spaces to foster social connections and a sense of belonging among residents.
  • Preserve natural and open spaces by allowing for more compact and efficient development patterns. 
  • Generate new tax revenue while using fewer public infrastructure resources.

Getting Started

  1. Recognize and promote mixed-use development’s impact on common master plan goals, such as increased housing options, increased affordability, economic development, reduced traffic, and fostering community wellbeing.
  2. If undertaking a master plan, include mixed-use development as a recommendation.
  3. Assess options for mixed-use development in your community. This could include existing downtowns or village areas with infill development opportunities, aging shopping centers or strip malls, old industrial buildings ready for adaptive reuse, rural areas that can be preserved through a Village Plan Alternative (VPA), and large sites requiring a Planned Unit Development (PUD).
  4. Hold a public engagement process to determine the communities vision for identified places, goals for any housing in mixed-use development, and retail needs and desires.
  5. Audit land use regulations and identify potential barriers to mixed-use development. This includes allowed uses in zoning; right-sizing dimensional, parking, and subdivision rules; or a lack of specialized zoning tools (like PUDs or VPAs) that must be adopted locally.
  6. Identify any infrastructure challenges that constrain mixed-use development. To the extent possible, use your community’s capital budget and any state grants to address these.
  7. Draft and adopt amendments to land use regulations that will enable the community’s desired mixed-use development at relevant locations.
  8. Promote mixed-use opportunities to local property owners and mixed-use developers.


  • Mixed-use development involves different skills and knowledge than conventional single-family development, and typically they are not the same developers. Promote your community and its development opportunities to mixed-use developers working in the region.
  • Requiring smaller retail units in mixed-use developments may be needed to ensure commercial tenants are small, community-focused businesses.
  • Mixed-use development is more likely to be successful when commercial tenants are lined up before financing is secured. Connect established businesses and entrepreneurs in town to potential mixed-use developers to spur potential retail tenancies.
  • Developments in hot real estate markets can sometimes afford to include “loss leaders” that do not turn a profit on their own but attract residents. This includes specialty retail and food service businesses, as well as community spaces and cultural institutions.