As part of our in-depth coverage of mixed-use developments – see the October 2011 issue of Chain Store Age – we talked with Rob Wetherald, VP development for Peoria, Ill.-based Cullinan Properties, Ltd., owner and developer of the Streets of St. Charles mixed-use project in metro St. Louis, about how the format draws, and supports, retail.
How important are design and amenities to today’s mixed-use projects, especially with regard to the retail component?
Successful mixed-use developments create a “community” that carefully blends various types of users, including shoppers, diners, office workers and residents. The development plan must present a pleasant, safe and attractive environment in which it is easy to navigate and maneuver by foot, automobile and other modes of transportation. Unlike other developments that segregate residential areas from business areas, mixed-use developments promote and encourage a neighborhood atmosphere. This is reinforced by the inclusion of common areas, amenities, signage and other elements that make for a cohesive design. This is referred to by urban planners, as the “city within a city.”
As in many aspects of life today, the ecology plays a large role in the design of mixed-use developments. By their very nature, mixed-use plans place homes, offices, shops and restaurants all in close proximity, fostering a “walk-ability” that is not possible in settings that keep the various uses separated by streets and by distance. As people choose a greener and more sustainable lifestyle, mixed-use developments offer a way to live those goals by eliminating the need to drive to work or to run errands. More and more, mixed-use developments are springing up in urban central locations, providing the opportunity to walk or ride a bike instead of hopping in the car. People leave their cars at home, which alleviates traffic, emissions and probably stress!
Successful mixed-use developments are designed to allow a smooth flow of traffic. These developments lend themselves to smarter transportation planning both within the development itself and on a larger scale as well. With proper master planning, communities can be provided with multiple routes to major destinations, which in turn alleviates traffic – even during times that are tra