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How to Do Mixed-Use Right (Thursday's News & Notes)

For the better part of the past decade, developers and architects have been arguing about the best way to approach mixed-use projects. Mixed-use was the in-vogue concept back in the pre-recession days, but many of those projects ended up being duds. Some architects attribute the failure to the fact that developers were often trying to bring mixed-use into suburban environments where people are not used to living, working and playing in the same place.

On the other hand, an article from this week's New York Times looks at a mixed-use environment that has thrived over the past several years--New York's Union Square. The area, which today serves as home to retailers as disparate as Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom Rack and Filene's Basement, is successful precisely because it was always a mixed-use place, combining office buildings, stores and restaurants with a transportation hub and a public park. It's also always had a reliable anchor: a four days a week Greenmarket. In other words, all the mixed-use elements were already there. All the city had to do was invest in better infrastructure and a beautification program. That's something developers should keep in mind when they think about recreating the feel of an urban downtown on a suburban parking lot.

Here's a slide show that traces Union Square's evolution over the past 25 years.

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