Why Should Delaware Communities Care about Mixed-Use Development?
Mixed-use development is an essential ingredient to become a Complete Community. Complete Communities typically include an integrated pedestrian and bike network, interconnected streets, intermingling of residential and commercial uses, and the inclusion of parks or open-space gathering area within developments. Mixed-use development has the potential to reduce sprawl, enhance downtowns, and encourage sustainable growth. Successful mixed-use development may revitalize towns by providing opportunities for redevelopment and reinvestment in central business districts and core areas that have existing infrastructure and are prepared for growth. Local governments may find that mixed-use development increases property tax revenue, reduces infrastructure costs, and lowers service costs.
The American Planning Association (APA), supported by numerous publications, provides clear benefits of mixed-use development on its website. These benefits are also consistent with several of the principles described in Better Models for Development in Delaware developed by the Delaware State Planning Office, and as outlined below:
Conserve farmland, open space and scenic resources
Mixed-use development in areas designated for growth can help conserve Delaware’s farmland, open spaces and scenic resources. As described in Delaware’s State Strategies for Policies and Spending, Investment Levels 1 and 2 are the state’s primary focus of support for growth and economic development activities. In these areas, the State would like to see local government land use policies that promote higher densities and mixed-use type development so complete communities can be developed where people could live, play, work and shop.
Maintain a clean edge between town and countryside
Similar to the previous principle, increased mixed-use developments reduce sprawl. Directing development to a downtown central business district can minimize sprawl and establish a clear boundary between developed and undeveloped areas.
Build livable communities
Better Models for Development in Delaware recommends that towns foster a flexible regulatory environment that encourages mixed-use, compact development in the downtown core. Proponents of mixed-use development contend that a mixture of uses can serve as an impetus for building complete, compact, competitive, and vibrant places. Because mixed-use development is pedestrian oriented, it can contribute to placemaking and community livability. Integrating uses can provide a functional and convenient blend of residential, commercial, retail, institutional, community, cultural destinations and activities within the same area. Designing a mixed-use development where one may live, work, and shop creates a livable and walkable community that benefits residents and visitors.
Preserve historic resources
Historic preservation is a deliberate effort to maintain, restore, and protect buildings and surroundings that connect a community to its past. Historic preservation can serve as a powerful engine for economic revitalization. While combining mixed-use development and historic preservation is a unique strategy, it is not uncommon. Because more people and business patrons crave authentic experiences, there is a growing interest in renovating historic structures and adapting them for new uses. Many jurisdictions have adopted ordinances to regulate demolition of historic structures, provide incentives for adaptive reuse of historic properties, and design guidelines and standards to maintain historical integrity of building styles.
The façade of the former Christina School District administrative building in downtown Newark, Delaware was incorporated into the design of the University of Delaware Bookstore on Main Street. A Master Plan has been created for Auburn Valley, a former paper mill site in Yorklyn, Delaware. A partnership between the State of Delaware and private developer plans for the adaptive reuse and redevelopment of the former industrial site into a mix of recreational, educational, shopping, and dining uses.
Respect local character in new construction
New construction can be designed to complement the local character of a community. Mixed-use development has been key to the ongoing renaissance and transformation of the City of Newark’s central business district over the past several decades. The Washington House is an example of a mixed-use building with a pleasing aesthetic appearance that has restaurants and parking on the ground level and upscale condominiums on the upper levels.
Reduce the impact of the car
The essence of mixed-use development is it incorporates compatible uses and provides convenient access to places that are connected by non-motorized and multi-modal transportation options. Because mixed-use development can decrease distance between homes, workplaces, shopping, and other daily living destinations it is regarded as a way to reduce reliance on travel by automobiles to promote walking, biking, and transit use.