NEW YORK – Feb. 26, 2016 – Mixed-use developments require more than just cobbling living space together with retail, but there isn't a list of rules developers can use. Nonprofits and municipal government in the city of New York hope to fix that.
Last month, The Design Trust for Public Space and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development released "Laying the Groundwork: Design Guidelines for Retail & Other Ground-Floor Uses in Affordable Housing Developments" as the first comprehensive design guidelines for retail and other ground-floor uses in affordable housing developments in the city.
Though the report was created to promote efficient, flexible ground-floor space for retail in New York, officials say the ramifications could reach beyond the five boroughs.
"Successful retail can have a powerful effect in improving the quality and diversity of amenities for local residents, activating streetscapes and supporting the local economy," says Larisa Ortiz, co-chair of the International Council of Shopping Centers Eastern Division P3 Retail.
The report finds several potential benefits to incorporating design initiatives into commercial development: higher demand, lower vacancies and a reduced need to make significant changes to accommodate different types of retailers down the road.
Elements suggested for mixed-use development
- Wide, transparent storefronts
The report finds that potential customers who can easily see inside a retail establishment immediately understand the types of products and services being offered – a benefit to retailers. This setup also discourages crime, reduces energy consumption (because it lets in natural light), and enhances curb appeal. The report recommends maintaining 15 feet between residential and retail entrances, and locating service entries (for retail spaces over 6,000 square feet) as far as possible from both residential and retail customer entries (ideally near garbage collection areas).
A combination of flat signs on the front of retail facades and "blade" signage that protrudes out from the side contributes to an attractive street front and helpful way-finding for potential retail customers. However, the report warns developers to coordinate signage lighting carefully to prevent light pollution that could be uncomfortable for residents living above the retail.
- Reconsider security
Study authors favor roll-down gates on the interior side of storefronts, combined with security systems, video, sensors and alarms. They also encourage flexible openings so the development appeals to wider range of retail establishments – an operable façade, for example, can help entice a restaurant tenant.
- Useful exteriors
The authors favor wide sidewalks and suggest providing tamper-proof water spigots on the exterior for cleaning the walkway and watering trees and plants in front of entrances. In some areas, the report suggests that retailers might prefer to have bike corrals located where a car parking space might have been, which can bring in more people and won't eat up valuable sidewalk space. They also encourage exterior electrical outlets as beneficial to the building staff for maintenance, as well as the local community – but make sure outlets lock and are secured properly to protect the public and minimize liability.
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