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Mixed-use buildings continue to grow in popularity

Real estate development types change with the times. The 1950s saw the rise of suburban tracts of single-family housing. More recently, there was a push to renovate and repurpose industrial spaces and old buildings to serve new users.

In future decades, the current era may be known for embracing mixed-use or urban-style developments with multifunctional spaces. These are planned communities where residents live, eat, shop, and work in the same area. They typically feature large multi-unit complexes, refitted buildings, amenities and public spaces.

Addressing changing tastes

There are several high-profile mixed-use projects in Houston, including 1550 on the Green, East River, and the Discovery West district. They are designed for changing tastes seen in Houston as in other urban areas around the country. People prefer not to drive to a mall, large retailer or smaller stand-alone restaurant, so developers are creating spaces that allow people to feel more connected to their immediate surroundings.

The benefits

Advocates of this approach cite many benefits:

  • Environmentally friendly: This approach can be more climate-friendly and require less reliance on cars
  • More amenities available: Greater housing density supports more amenities within the property and in surrounding areas. Subsequently, people can spend less time in their cars and spend less on gas.
  • Health and safety benefits: Improved walkability and safe bike paths can be accessed in mixed use projects
  • Community-centered: Working and living in the same area allow people a stronger connection to the community
  • Cost savings: Stand-alone properties can require more time and expense to maintain

Drafting the right plan

Every major development involves considerable planning, but mixed-use developments have several unique challenges.

It is important to create a project that successfully serves the community. There will likely be several regulatory hurdles and applications to file. There may be questions regarding whether the plan syncs with the municipality’s long-term planning goals. Are development incentives or tax abatements available? What other incentives might apply?

Other red tape

In addition to permits and approvals, local buy in may be necessary. Community residents and officials will likely want to review to determine if the project is a good fit for the area. Ideally, they can help identify any glaring issues caused by the unique nature of the community.

Sticking points may be addressed by meeting local regulations or finding creative solutions, such as added off-street parking, redesigned traffic flows, or additional infrastructure such as water, sewer and waste disposal.

Breaking ground

Actual construction can begin once preparation is complete, red tape is addressed, and financing is available.

But unforeseen challenges will still await the developer or owner once they break ground. Support provided by attorneys who handle real estate law, transactions, contracts, regulations and similar matters will be indispensable to seeing a project to completion. Bringing them in early in the process can help streamline the process.