If you follow land development issues within Naperville or any other community these days, you likely hear the term “mixed-use development” quite a bit. More recently, the Naper Main, LLC planned mixed-use development on Van Buren has made it’s way through the Naperville City Council chambers with other projects waiting in the wings to be considered.
Mixed-use development is a type of land zoning which combines residential and commercial uses. In other words, it puts people within close vicinity of business and business within close vicinity of people. When you hear many people boasting that living in Chicago is better than being in the suburbs, they are typically referring to the accessibility and vibrancy created by living in neighborhoods which include restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and other entertainment options within short walking distance.
Mixed-use development promotes the essence of community as it brings people and lifestyle closer together in a more intimate way than driving to a strip mall which is seperate from a residential area. In essence, mixed-use development yields the ongoing presence and rythm of life which cannot be achieved sitting behind a windshield on your way to and from a strip mall.
Even more, with our nation’s energy consumption being rigorously debated these days, the more we can keep people out of cars and on their feet the better. Could mixed-use development be the ultimate hybrid?
Value is created through mixed-use development not only by those who are fortunate enough to live within the mixed-used development area but also those non-residents who experience the living energy of the development.
It’s interesting that mixed-use development most likely originated out of necessity relating to restricted mobility, such as the experience of living in densely populated areas. Today, mixed-use development is bringing suburban life back to a central and vibrant focal point.
As one can quickly see in Naperville’s land development trends, mixed-use is not exclusive to downtown. Take a look at the English Rows development on Route 59 which combines unique communal architecture with the presence of commercial amenities.
We can all be thankful for the vision and creativity of Naperville’s land planners, business community, leaders and developers who refuse to let us grow too distant from one another. The end-result will continue to bring us closer together as a community.
The only caveat I would throw out there is my hopes that we will arrive at a day when mixed-use residential developments in Naperville becomes accessible to more than those at the top income bracket. Of course, it comes down to the market-driven economic principles of supply and demand. Nonetheless, I continue to believe that mixed-use development, overall, is good for Naperville.