The future is in cities. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by the middle of the century. So needless to say, the necessity of responsible urban planning is more important than it has ever been.
Many people are starting to see the benefits of mixed-use developments. A mixed-use development is an urban zone that combines residential, business, and retail spaces all within close proximity to each other. This type of city planning is in contrast to the “sprawling city” design where everything is further apart.
Mixed-use developments have a few distinct advantages over their alternatives.
One of the biggest advantages of having everything so close together is that peoples’ reliance on motor vehicle transport is severely diminished. Walkability is greatly improved, with residents being able to access everything they need within a few city blocks.
Private car ownership is swapped out for a bicycle and a little bit of time on public transport. This leads to less overall carbon emissions and a positive impact on the surrounding environment. New York City is a good example of a city where personal car ownership is relatively low.
Rampant wealth inequality is never a good look, but that is exactly what comes to the forefront in the traditional sprawling city design. The rich elite set up shop in the city center, while the working class lives several miles away in cheaper and more practical housing.
Take for example the large cities of California. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, only high end residential condos are available anywhere near the downtown areas. The wealthy elite live far removed from the homelessness and ghettos that lie just outside of the city center. In LA, homelessness has become such an issue that experts fear the spread of deadly diseases.
Mixed-use planning encourages different wealth classes to intermingle a bit more, thereby holding the wealthy to a higher degree of accountability for the environment around them.
By placing people closer to the businesses and establishments that they patron, a stronger relationship is forged between the personal and transactional. This encourages the proliferation of so called “Mom and Pop shops”, as opposed to the soulless corporate businesses that have come to dominate the sprawling cities of yesteryear.