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ICSC Study: Americans Want Mixed-Use, And They Want It Now

The vast majority of Americans would at least consider living in a mixed-use community — a live-work-shop-play environment — according to a new study by the International Council of Shopping Centers

Sawmill Station, the transformation of a shopping center in suburban Chicago into a mixed-use property.

Fully 78% of U.S. adults surveyed are open to mixed-use, but younger Americans are most on board, with 85% of millennials saying they would consider living in such an environment vs. 71% of baby boomers.

The driving force is convenience, according to the report. More than half of the respondents (55%) cite that as the main reason for considering a mixed-use property. Variety and proximity are essential in making mixed-use properties attractive, with housing, workplaces, dining and recreation all close to each other.

Consumer awareness of mixed-use options is affecting existing retail properties as well, ICSC found. People want more out of their malls. More than two-fifths (44%) of consumers say that their visits to shopping centers are more likely now to include different activities compared to even two years ago.

Sizable numbers of consumers have increased their visits to fitness/wellness (36%) and medical facilities (34%) in shopping centers during the last two years, the report notes.

According to data from CoStar cited in the report, the share of total shopping center space allocated to nonretail/non-restaurant tenants at the end of 2018 was nearly 25%, up from 19% at the end of 2012. 

Many adults (38%) are also now spending more at dining establishments than two years ago, and half of those surveyed want to see more dining options at shopping centers. Forty percent want more leisure and entertainment venues.

Developers have been responding to consumers' openness to mixed-use by creating new mixed-use properties, as well as adding mixed-use elements to existing properties.

In suburban Chicago, for instance, Kensington Development Partners and IM Properties are planning to remake an outmoded retail center into a mixed-use complex. 

That project involves a retail center formerly known as Prairie View Plaza being converted into Sawmill Station, a 240K SF collection of new shopping, dining and entertainment options, along with a 240-unit multifamily project.

In Boston, developers are transforming previously separate commercial space into mixed-use. Related Beal’s Congress Square involved the transformation of Fidelity’s old 530K SF HQ into a mixed-use development with nearly 93K SF of new construction and the Quaker Lane ground-floor retail experience.