Making Public Access A Priority in Mixed Use Architecture
Mixed use architecture is in a constant state of reinvention.
Now, more than ever, people are seeking more pedestrian-friendly environments – a sentiment which poses both opportunities and challenges for mixed use architects.
Is there a way for architects to make public access and walkability a priority in mixed use projects, while also thinking about the privacy and comfortability of private residents who live there?
To help answer that question, here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Outdoor Public Access
It is important to make mixed use buildings easy, convenient and desirable for the public to walk, bike or transit to. But if the environment is unattractive or physically inaccessible, this will scarcely happen.
A development oriented to pedestrians requires a unique planning approach, different from that of an automobile-dependent development. Consider the following:
- Bike paths adjacent to the road
- Outdoor art fixtures and/or appealing wall designs/murals
- Expanded areas of landscaping and pathways to break up surface parking
- Trees and foliage that enhance the visual appearance of the environment
- Safety barriers between sidewalks and parking lots/streets
If possible, minimize the visibility of parking areas from the sidewalk, locating them underground, to the side or to the rear of buildings, with inviting pedestrian passageways into the project
- Minimized number of entrances/exits to parking areas, in order to reduce congestion and conflict with pedestrians
- Physical protection against the elements, such as awnings and overhangs
- Ample public amenities such as trash bins, bicycle racks and benches
- Outdoor children’s play areas, depending on the region and nature of the development
On the commercial side, specifically, it is important to provide continuous storefront windows and entries with high visibility into the space and/or displays, to attract window shoppers.
Architects should also design outdoor public spaces for mixed use projects – such as parks, plazas, al fresco dining areas and other places of assembly – where people have the opportunity to organize and pursue leisure/social activity.
Resident Safety and Security
For residents of mixed use buildings, safety and security is often a serious concern – especially once they’ve been optimized for public accessibility.
Therefore, architects should consider implementing high-level security features into the planning and design. Security measures can include:
- Maximized visibility and openness
- Greater levels of lighting
- Controlled access points
- Security cameras, gates and intercoms throughout the area
- Panic buttons and blue light systems
- Effective signage (visible, legible, concise messaging, etc.)
- After-hours patrols
- Restricted, resident-only parking areas
Having these features in place will help attract and retain residents, while also making the space safer and more appealing to the public and prospective commercial tenants.
Principal, Director - Commercial Studio
Lori’s mixed use career at M+A started in 1997 with Easton Town Center and has grown expansively ever since. Creating dynamic, sustainable, active neighborhoods is what Lori does best. But, when she's not working on projects, she loves cooking and hanging out with her daughters.