Mixed Zoning in Cities, Dr Jon Drane, precinct activation, dead city areas.Mixed Zoning in Cities, Dr Jon Drane

Mixed Zoning in Cities has provided town and city planners with the ability to allow or promote different uses on a particular site. But does it always work, is it a blunt instrument and what can local councils do to turn it into a dynamic force for change?

The Mixed Use development typically includes Apartments sitting over Offices sitting over Shops. The truth is that due to City Retail Dynamics and certain Developer Vagaries, it is found that not all developers are equipped to bring these three uses to life on the one site. Nor are all sites suited to such mixed uses. When it goes wrong, a development might have a thriving mixed apartment community in a tower sitting over vacant shop fronts which take ages to lease or may lie dormant for long periods.

Dr Jonathan Drane draws on his City Growth and Dormancy Research and current research interactions in key city precincts to make sense of this instrument and what might be done to make it a dynamic force for City Planners as an agent of change.

Dr Jon Drane, Mixed Zoning in Cities, dead city areas, dormancy in cities
Dr Jon Drane, Mixed Zoning in Cities

Property Developers and Mixed Zoning in Cities

Taking developer dynamics first; not all developers are equipped to bring these mixed uses to life on the one site in the B4 mixed scenario. Developers who are good at apartments might not be good at commercial uses or retail.

Retail developers know how to create shopping centres with retail strategies and mixes and control them under a single ownership situation.This is however not always possible to achieve in the ground floor street front of a new mixed use development.

Commercial office developers are good at creating singular use multi-storey office buildings with a token retail offering in the foyer and a tower filled with tenants based on a mix of anchor tenants (majors who take up a substantial number of floors) and a balance of other tenant types.

This is not always easy to create in a small strip of office space that sits sandwiched in between apartments and shops in a mixed use development.

Mixed Zoning in Liverpool NSW, Mixed Zoning Dr Jon Drane
Mixed Zoning in Liverpool NSW,Dr Jon Drane

Developer types are also evolving and are now from a DIY breed and not all have the professional standards nor the expertise across sectors like the majors. This is showing up in the dire level of defects and even tragedies related to improperly certified buildings.

City Retailers and Mixed Zoning

On the city retail dynamics front, not all sites that are allocated to a mixed use zoning are suited to the multiple uses. If we take the ground floor retail strip of a new mixed use development as an example, it needs to fit into the overall retail ecology of the city or town that surrounds it.

If there is a regional shopping centre at one end of the town or city formation (which is so common in regional cities and towns), the new mixed use development will compete against the horsepower of the regional shopping centre offerings.

In this context the regional shopping centre has become a ‘competing city’ of sorts which can suck the retail life out of the remaining town or city formation.

The Retail Strip versus The Shopping Centre

How can the new mixed use development and its retail strip compete against the sophistication of either regional or local village shopping centres?

One answer lies in City Planners and Economic Development Officers recognising these dynamics at both developer and city retail level and devising a retail strategy at precinct level that actually learns from the sophisticated centrally owned system and monopolistic practices of the shopping centres.

Councils are already well on the way to going beyond relying fully on typical zoning and development control instruments into ‘granular’ approaches to stimulation of their city formations that sit outside the regional shopping centre influence.

State Development Models

Another lies in the possibly heretical approach where Local Governments might take a more pro-active quasi-developer type role in stimulating a desired result in mixed use precincts.

At mega level in other parts of the macro city developments of Australia, State led development bodies and corporations are already in place or previously used (Barangaroo, City West CWDC, Honeysuckle…).

But perhaps I have gone too far. If however you would like to explore these dynamics more you can book a Master Class (see below) which covers such urban and property development dynamics and well beyond the B4 Mixed Use Conundrum that is outline here.

Dr Jonathan Drane

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Link to UNSW Library for Published Doctorate

Research Sites – Jonathan Drane

By Dr Jon Drane

Dr Jonathan Drane is a recognised writer, researcher, advisor and teacher in city and property development processes. He is an expert witness in complex construction and property development issues. Jonathan is also the editor of The City Whisperer which explores our growing cities and the results and malaise of growth. http://www.jondrane.net/

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