How the Meaning of Mixed-Use Has Changed Over Time

To define the concept of “mixed-use” into a singular, nationwide definition is nearly impossible. Different target markets, financial needs, geographical characteristics and developer visions result in no two developments looking alike. Flexibility is the driving force that makes mixed-use such a popular concept.

Mixed-use isn’t a new concept. In fact, it dates back to Ancient Greece where the Greeks were able to live, eat and shop in close proximity. In the 1980s, mixed-use meant retail and office space in the front with apartments in back. A decade later, the definition changed to mean an office building with a deli or bakery and unappealing retail across the street with disconnected apartments.

Today’s definition of mixed-use has come full circle to mimic what the Greeks originally had in mind. As more Corporate America and Millennials demand the live-work-play experience, developers have begun to recreate mixed-use developments to fit the needs of the residents, not just the employees in offices below.

“New Urbanism” was once considered a fad that was predicted to quickly disappear. Instead, it has taken over the North Texas area. For example, in Richardson, a $1.5 billion project called CityLine is beginning to take shape. Located across from the DART station, the development will feature nearly 30 restaurants, Whole Foods and a LOOK Cinema theatre. Not far from this project is Dallas Midtown, that will feature a gondola system built over the largest programmed Dallas park, connecting the complex to the Galleria Mall.

Some of the largest and most anticipated mixed-use projects are evolving in Frisco. Several major developments have sprung up in the area and have been named the “$5 Billion Mile.” The area includes The Star, a 91-acre complex that houses the headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys, as well as the future 242-acre Frisco Station.

It’s hard to find a mixed-use development that looks exactly like another, but there are key characteristics that separate them from stand-alone projects. The most important element to a mixed-use development is the resident’s ability to get their daily services all within five minutes of each other. Having restaurants, office spaces, apartments and outdoor amenities strategically located within walking distance drives the popularity behind the trend.

Creating a sense of community draws residents of all ages; from Millennials to senior citizens. Activities in these social spaces bring tenants and even members of near by communities together. Connective green spaces act as glue in mixed-use communities and bring circulation and flexibility to the development which allows for it to adapt as the resident’s needs evolve.

Mixed-use is a return to how cities were once built, not a fad brought on by the young adult generation. From young to old, residents want to know their neighborhood and feel like a part of the surrounding community, driving the emergence of thousands of successful developments across the country.

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