Blending Residential with Mixed-Use

By Robert A. Koch, AIA, Principal, Fugleberg Koch ArchitectsMixed-use developments are reaching greater acceptance driven by the collective impact of higher land prices, resident demands for convenience, public planning initiatives, advancing principles of new urbanism and an ongoing demand for urban redevelopment. Many of these mixed-use undertakings consider residential occupancies a major, if not central, component. Blends of retail, office, hospitality, entertainment and occasional public purpose functions have been joined with residential occupancies to make 24/7 settings that produce complete living communities in compact executions that invite pedestrian interface between all activities.Many of the elements within these settings are public access oriented. That is to say they are intended to invite all, with little or no restriction to anyone who wishes to enter. Some office and public buildings control entry for security purposes, but seldom do they consider the population of users to be very limited and exclusive. By contrast the residential element alone is intended for only those who permanently occupy that part of the campus and those who visit or serve them. Homes are sacred domains. They offer personal protection and shelter for our treasured possessions and us. They are our “space” where we conduct the most intimate activities of our lives. They are the places with which we are the most familiar and the places in which we demand the greatest sanctity.Security as well is an ever-present concern. In housing, that concern is elevated by the personal equity we invest in the place we call home. While there remain few places we go where personal and property security are not a concern, in housing that concern is magnified and applied to every aspect of the residential setting. • We seek to live in an area that feels comfortable and unthreatening. • We find great comfort in knowing those we call neighbors and find them friendly and protective of the collective setting. • We demand the freedom of walking about within our homes or within the campus of which we are a part without the fear of strangers putting us in harm’s way. When integrated into the mixed-use development, the residential facility must consider a unique and personal adaptation of demands centered on security, exclusivity, and selectivity, while suggesting freedom of movement without complicated barriers, detectors, or intrusive surveillance. Consider then the lifestyle benefits and the contingent concerns that are encountered in mixed-use, and then anticipate wisely the approaches that offer residential benefit and comfort in the presence of what would likely be a very populated setting with strangers about at all times. Security: Considering units as well as parkingSecurity is the most challenging issue in mixed-use. It must consider within the residential environment, not only the unit, but also the parking element, the common element, and all the means that connect them. With that in mind, security must extend to each part of that assembly with equal effectiveness.Parking for the residential occupancies must be, to the maximum extent possible, separate and secured from the parking that is provided for any of the other uses in the mixed-use setting. Often, parking considerations are scaled down in mixed-use developments, arguing the pedestrian accessibility and the non-concurrent peak demands allow for less overall parking to be provided.This is a true assumption but it should not override the importance of the separation of the residential spaces from all others, thus avoiding the notion of flexible parking demands overlapping with the residential required spaces. The parking separation should preclude not only car access, but also the errant pedestrian from entering the residential auto domain. Residents’ concerns may in part focus on the objective of assuring that their parking space will always be there when they return home and not confiscated by overflow interests from other land uses. Their larger concern, however, is for their personal safety when using that space. The most vulnerable situation within a residential community is the time that residents travel from car to unit. When that occurs in off hours when other traffic is particularly low, that movement can be very intimidating. Suburban executions, then, should treat the parking as separate gated lots with responsible boundaries of fences or other human barriers. When private garages are offered, they should be internally attached to the dwelling structure or building they serve. Urban executions should consider the structured garage as a domain of two separate parking environments when commercial and business demands are shared with the residential occupancies. Whenever possible, each should employ separate entries, as the character of each use, the entry/exit control system employed, and the ability to fully secure one part from the other is well advanced when this separation occurs. If parking structures demand the vertical stacking of residential parking over commercial parking, even the elevator and exit systems need to be considered as part of the “car to unit” movement. Commonly used elevators sharing residential and business riders open up vulnerabilities in the security envelope that should seek to isolate and protect the resident. Limited access stops on elevators controlled by card, key or code, can be violated when individuals want to penetrate the security boundary they are intended to assure.The best solution would call for elevators for residential parking levels to be separate from those that serve the commercial parking. Separation is even more mandatory when the elevator discharges directly into the floors where dwellings exist as opposed to conditions which discharge into common areas where residential access security control concurrently occurs. The internal paths of travel within the residential community from unit to amenity are also sensitive areas where outsiders should be limited. In suburban settings, that may not be more than a security gate and property boundary treatment that precludes unrestricted public access without some gate management procedure. Only when the common element is directly accessible from the public way and such access is shared by resident use, does the problem of security become very difficult to manage.When such conditions occur in areas of limited staffing (personal or time) the common element should be seen as a potential corridor for unwanted traffic into the residential areas of the campus. Attention to this vulnerability is important to assure the needed safety and resident comfort desired.In urban settings, the concerns remain the same. Often, security personnel who are staffed on a 24/7 basis, manage this. When such overhead is not an available option, the monitoring devices that define and limit the separate domains of public and resident movements have to be responsibly considered. Every building penetration whether it be fire stair, trash management area, delivery dock, or maintenance port needs to be included. The front door is not the only way to access a building and therefore hardening it alone is an effort of little real value when addressing true security for residents. When possible, consider the layering of surety measures. The path of resident arrival from a public street to a front door might include: • Limited and secured access to parking. • Limited and secured access to buildings, elevator domains, or specific levels of the building. • Resident security at their front door. In such applications, the layers offer increasing assurance and comfort to the resident even in the most intense and active settings.Access: Easy but controlledIn mixed-use developments, the residential component enjoys an independent variety of traffic that is often unrelated to the movements and needs of the other uses. Visitors, prospects, move-ins, home deliveries, personal services and occupancy service needs such as maintenance and trash removal all need to approach the resident domain with ease but
under controlled access. The residents often employ a separate approach as they find their way home by way of their car through what is most likely a secured path through gated parking executions.The property management function, whether that be leasing or building concierge, would prefer to have direct access “in line” with the friendly movement and overview of service traffic with some measure of detachment.The visitor and prospect both will measure their opinion of the property and its residents by how they are treated in their first encounter with the campus. Single-use campuses allow that to occur with little difficulty by providing visitor spaces outside the security boundary or requiring contact with the resident or property security by virtue of control entry phone as a condition of access. Mixed-use developments can find some of the traffic to the door to be misdirected, some of the traffic needing to be redirected to other gates or entry ports, and some of the traffic seeking entry without detection. Combined, there results a contradiction between the hardening and control demands of traffic management and the soft and invitational feel of a welcoming experience. The best solutions result when visitor and prospect access is clear, direct and inviting while managed with personnel at all hours such that courtesy and helpfulness will complement the setting. This requires staff suitably trained in the human components of the job. Such staffing is, however, often more than the property can support relying upon devices to intervene in their behalf.Control entries with telephone managed gate releases are best done with video surveillance. Today’s technology has made that component less expensive to implement. It can be independent or part of the cable TV or Internet service systems within the building or campus. Area in front of the resident security gate should be limited in size and openly transparent so as to discourage its unwanted use. Waiting and lounging areas should be placed within, so quick access is approved or rejected, limiting loitering in the pre-security location.When management offices are at the property, they should be offered oversight of this area and independent access to their domain without movement through the resident’s secured zone of the property.The service demands in vertically mixed-use buildings are often unsightly street events. Garbage compactors, loading docks and utility access points are the least desirable occupancies of important street faces of any building. Their location should be with a view to the least traveled face of the building, away from resident and guest arrivals. If this cannot be accomplished, the screening or gating of these conditions might be important to preserving a friendly condition from the pedestrian perspective. When grade and ground water conditions permit, they should seek the lowest points on the perimeter and potentially be further depressed to bring them below street grade, even by a few feet, making them less conspicuous to the public way.Privacy: Consider visual, sound, odor and vibration elementsPrivacy is measured in many ways, all attached to the senses. Visual privacy, sound privacy, odor management, and even vibration isolation can be concerns in mixed-use settings. Residential placements over or next to such uses as restaurants, nightclubs, garage entries, parking areas, and service areas, can challenge the sanctity of the resident domain. In the more intense mixed-use and urban applications, the streets that form acoustic canyons can also amplify sounds what otherwise would go unnoticed.In the more intense setting, the resident expects a lowering of their privacy by some measure, but similarly they also desire and find more satisfaction in greater performance when it can be offered. Consider the following: • Stronger sound separation between units and between corridors and units are areas of critical demands. • Hardened exterior walls with double pane windows and well-insulated door assemblies together with dense wall constructions with soundproofing qualities. • Remote placement of exhaust hoods and fans discharging air from objectionable sources away from dwellings and outdoor living areas. • Well-considered placements of windows with regard to view lines from not only ground but also elevated adjacencies. • Low bulkhead railing assemblies that screen the first 16” above balcony floors from lower views. Amenities: Combination of adjacent uses and internal amenitiesProperly blended mixed-use developments consider the adjacent uses to the residential occupancy to be amenities. The proximity to shopping, office and entertainment are the best feature of the solutions. The profile of other uses and their independent vitality contribute greatly to the power of persuasion they can bring to the consumer deliberation on the residential product. Notwithstanding these adjacencies, the residential component still requires some modicum of amenity groomed for their internal use alone. Suburban mixed-use facilities will likely not see attrition in amenity offering from any non mixed-use execution. The urban counterpart will often minimize the demands on common area as concerns of site availability may limit what outdoor or even indoor activities can be hosted within. In both however, some of the amenities can be positioned so they do double duty. If they are well conceived and executed, they provide both resident amenities and area benefits to others not living within. By example, a fitness facility that could include free weights, aerobic machines, exercise floor and even court play functions such as hand ball, racquet ball, or basketball, could be positioned where independent access and memberships could be offered to non-residents, thus potentially supporting dedicated staff and personal services in addition to the space and equipment components. Similarly, personal services such as car care, pet walking, housekeeping, and laundry pickup could be extended to other non-resident occupancies within the mixed-use setting. Finally, personal services not usually found in multifamily developments such as hairstylist, tanning or nail salons, masseuse, and personal trainers can find great synergy by locating facilities with both easy public and residential access. Combined, the measure of active service amenities can often grow, and resident benefit will perform equivalently.Mixed-use including residential is perhaps the best assembly in this complex approach to development, as it embeds the demand generators permanently on campus while giving residents area features that cannot be found in normal suburban or specially zoned district executions. The residential component is thus the animated lifeline that assures the street vitality and ultimate appeal to all who locate there, whether residential or otherwise. It also interacts well with all who come there, whether residential visitor or business visitor, seeking an environment that complements the product or service offering they desire. Considering the residential element must place its concerns as a major measure of how the mixed-use executions function. Well considered, the resident benefits and their presence and energy will further the vitality of `the places that bring distinction and value to all who use them.