8C — October 11 - 24, 2013 — Pennsylvania — Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal


E astErn Pa

By Buck Collins, Bohler Engineering Mixed-use projects – the wave of the present


s we continue the slow and steady climb out of the real estate develop- ment

together. Almost all mixed-use projects include retail as a criti- cal component. They come in every combina- tion, shape and form; retail with residential overhead, multi-floor retail under parking and hotel, retail malls with office building connected by pedestrian bridges and parking decks, office build- ings with top level residential condominiums and street level retail, and on and on. Some are being planned and developed with these intended uses and others are a repurpos- ing of existing buildings and/or

sites to add or change original uses to re-emerge as mixed-use projects. The concept, like most con- cepts, is not a new one. The difference today is that municipalities are often the facilitators of the projects. It is common to see efforts made by cities, townships, boroughs and regional planning commis- sions to initiate changes and modernization of their zoning ordinance. Often the catalyst is a desire to better manage car and truck traffic and re- duce congestion. More often it

is a broader attempt to right the wrongs of past local and regional planning that resulted in residential neighborhoods being segregated from retail uses, with office uses delegated to office parks and industrial uses in a far corner away from everything else. People had to drive to work, drive somewhere else to shop, somewhere else again for medical care and rec- reation and drive again to get back home. Acloser examination suggests that there may be two drivers in this recent shift to mixed-use;

sustainability and economics. The push towards an empha- sis on sustainability started with a concern for a cleaner environment and expanded to include adaptive re-use of ex- isting building and an effort to develop projects that will stand the test of time and not have to be torn down in 15 years, often referred to as “Smart Growth”. Today’s zoning codes increas- ingly encourage the “live, work, play” model. Busy lives are made easier by not having to drive everywhere. Less driving means fewer and smaller park- ing lots andwalkingmore often.. Including outdoor active and passive recreation with other uses promotes more green space and a healthy lifestyle. Many of the projects are located near rail stations, bus stops and bike paths. These are referred to as Transit Oriented Developments (TOD’s). TOD’s make good plan- ning sense; including residential, work, play and transportation uses all in close proximity result inmore sustainable projects and reduce environmental impacts and sprawl. The economic driver has a few components; developing projects that have lasting appeal are easier to sell or rent, have less turnover and are easier to fi- nance. Including retail uses give mixed-use projects a dependable cash flow at the beginning of the project, making them easier to finance than standalone office or apartment buildings. Retail- ers are attracted to the project because they have a built in cus- tomer base that lives and works right next door. Of course, good planning and design are the keys to success for the Mixed-Use category and for each Mixed-Use project. Lo- cation remains the most critical element; a great mix of uses will fare poorly if it’s located without easy access to mass transit, a solid road network and good in- frastructure. Intelligent site and building design will result in a project that has uses that comple- ment each other and become an asset to the community. Buck Collins is Bohler En- gineering’s director of cli- ent services for PA/DE/SnJ. Bohler provides leadingCivil Engineering, Environmental, Geotechnical, traffic and Surveying services for its clients throughout the East- ernUnitedStates. Bohler has been involved in numerous Mixed-Use projects through- out the Region. n

m o r a s s o f the last five years, there is a noticeable preference for the creation of new “mixed- use” projects. Mixed-use

Buck Collins

refers to two or more types of uses on the same property, developed as one project and intended to have a synergy

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