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Thread: Mixed use zone and commercial building footprints

  1. #1
    Jul 2010
    Eastern Canada

    Mixed use zone and commercial building footprints

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm tasked with writing a new mixed-use zone for my county. The intention of this zone is not to force walkable communities in the style of NU, but rather to enable more flexibility on lands where we really don't care either way if it's residential or commercial. In our more rural areas along minor highways we have many situations where you'll see "Bob's rummage store" and a residence existing side-by-side quite peacefully. These situations hark back from before we had planning and would be considered non-conforming today. We're trying to accommodate them.

    Anyways, to my primary question: Is anyone aware of a resource (website preferably, I'd rather not have to order a book) that lays out the footprint requirments of different commerical uses? We want to allow commercial uses, but we don't want them to be 100,000 square foot Walmarts. The plan is to put a limit on commercial area, but I'm not sure where to draw the line. Rather than pull a number out of my behind it would be nice to have some reality to base it in.

    Secondary question: any thoughts or experiences on your experience with such a zone in your community?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    There is no standard answer to your question. Take grocery stores. There is a 200,000 square foot grocery going in near where I live. On the other hand, a grocery can also be the 3,000 square foot store in a rural town. Your "mom and pop" stores in a typical downtown will usually be in the range from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, which is the typical footprint of an older downtown building. A modern convenience store or fast food restaurant may have a similar size between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet. CVS and Walgreens are 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.

    Where I have seen this, usually the zoning is either commercial or residential, and permits the other use as accessory or as a conditional use.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Dec 2009
    County of Orange
    Agree with Cardinale. The first decision you need to make is whether you allow multiple uses on one floor, or on the same floor that the next-door neighbor has an entirely different use for. Do you want residential on the first floor if the buildings on either side have commercial on the first floor? If you're too restrictive, structures that are only two stories will fail, because the second floor in the absence of an elevator will be less attractive. I would probably insist mixed-use structures be AT LEAST three stories tall, so that you can demand an elevator to the upper levels, whether they are commercial or residential.

  4. #4
    At least in some California cities, there is a Central Business District zone that allows residential (and office) uses on upper floors of buildings if deemed compatible with the district. Mostly, the district's guidelines seem to strongly encourage commercial uses on the first floor with bank offices, etc., allowed by special permit.

  5. #5
    Jul 2009
    Colo Front Range
    Quote Originally posted by hipp5 View post

    Secondary question: any thoughts or experiences on your experience with such a zone in your community?
    I do like the little neighborhood grocery stores that seen to be everywhere back east and hardly anywhere out here. Nevertheless, one of the things I enjoy doing is looking at the occupancies of the ground floor in mixed-use districts. Oh, I know that one day they'll be the greatest thing ever, but where they are imposed and don't occur naturally, there sure seems to be a moribund market for them. In Seattle, they were way overbuilt when I lived there.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
    Jun 2002
    Southeast US
    In searching the web, I found this "model code" site for Mixed Use developments that may be helpful:


    We have had such a zone for Mixed Use since 1996, but there has been little demand for the use of such space. We have tremendous demand for traditional shopping center space with small shops. Apparently people like to drive their car to where they can load up their car on one shopping trip (even in the rain) and drive back home without having to carry stuff (and make multiple trips if walking).

    We have enclosed shopping centers in our area where you can liesurely walk in air-conditioned or heated comfort without worrying about the rain or snow and icy walks. Shopping centers also seem to attract shoppers from longer distances, which seems to help our local economy.

    It may be helpful to encourage large shopping center firms to construct outside "street shopping" appearances in their developments while still managing large area for commercial purposes and the convenience of walking shoppers.

    You should also consider the "livability" of residential spaces in commercial areas. Do you have requirements for enough light and green space (landscaping) to make an attractive living quarters where the sky can be seen in most directions and people can still have contact with the earth?

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