The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the wellness of people and many economies worldwide, significantly affecting many real estate assets across various sectors, including hospitality, commercial and entertainment.
In the case of mixed-use development, the long-term ability to provide opportunities for live, work and play offers some resiliency due to cohesive locations with “real walkability” for residents and a cultivated sense of community.
As an urban design concept, mixed-use development (sometimes referred to as mixed-use zoning or mixed-use planning) combines residential, commercial, cultural, and institutional uses into one area or space. A mixed-use development provides developers, residents and tenants with more options within a condensed area, including multi-family residential and commercial zoning opportunities.
However, diversity of development also means that multiple factors, such as retail tenancy, rental collections and construction delays, can simultaneously hinder the developer’s return on investment.
Nevertheless, COVID-19 has brought a new normal to our daily living conditions, prompting designers to rethink and redesign mixed-use developments for a post-pandemic world.
I have included several considerations and opportunities in this document that could help bridge the gap between current and future mixed-use developments, including a case study on how one developer successfully managed the impacts of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted people with underlying conditions and disabilities. Buildings and public spaces have not consistently accommodated different types of physical disabilities when establishing physical distancing and mandatory hand-sanitizing policies.
A post-pandemic world requires greater attention to the different needs of people. We can achieve this by complying with building standards like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and design features that allow touchless entries, tactile and colour contrast, and improved protocols for safe entryways and exits within shared spaces for everyone.
As Eddie Ndopu, founder and CEO of Beyond Zero Ventures, puts it, “What makes a space accessible is the empathy, connection, freedom, and possibility it engenders for people of all abilities and identities to come together.”
For the mixed-use developments of Bridgwater Town Centre, Nadi Group helped the developer address wayfinding, mobility and social inclusion for all ages and abilities within the centre’s design guidelines:
“Manitoba Housing is committed to providing accessible development for all, and there is a strong desire to develop Bridgwater Centre as a fully accessible neighbourhood. Residential land uses within the Centre should be developed to incorporate ‘Visitable housing’ or ‘Visitable’ standards, which is the concept of designing and building homes with basic accessibility. Visitable homes provide easy access to the main level for everyone. Visitable features include no-step entrances, wider doorways and clear passage on the main floor, and the main floor bathroom (or powder room) that can be accessed by visitors who use mobility devices.”
This pandemic has shown that we need to rethink the universal accessibility of our public spaces and the visitability of the environments that we live, work and play in every day. Despite any cost, when we create inclusive and accessible environments, it reflects an enlightened commitment to address the much larger toll the pandemic has taken on our society.
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