Design Guidelines that Activate Mixed-Use Affordable Housing

Design Guidelines that Activate Mixed-Use Affordable Housing
Fiona Cousins, Penny Hardy, Hayes Slade, and James Slade
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What design principles can make ground floor space in a mixed-use residential building more appealing for retail, commercial tenants, and community uses? Laying the Groundwork, published by the Design Trust for Public Space and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, offers ground floor design guidelines intended to improve the quality of life around mixed-use affordable housing, while supporting developers in leasing up these critical spaces. While the report was written with affordable housing developers in mind, the principles apply to all mixed-use multifamily properties.

Six sections focused on different building components describe the design objectives along with examples of the principles in practice. The report includes checklists that summarize the guidelines for both small and large retail spaces. Different tenant scenarios are depicted in drawings that make the design principles and building system configurations come to life. An accompanying cost template is available as an online supplement.

Success factors for ground floor design include:

  • Transparent facades with attractive privacy options
  • Well-defined retail space with a separate entrance from the residences
  • Exterior lighting that promotes activity and security
  • Benches, bike racks, and other peripheral amenities that support retail tenants of all sizes
  • Adequate height to maximize the space’s utility for various configurations
  • Planned column spacing that increases the openness of the retail space
  • Sufficient individual utility meters, as well as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing service