19 urban development types for creatives

Rockville Town Square, Rockville, Maryland

Thanks to Chris Leinberger, author of the The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream, we are aware of the 19 standard product types that institutional investors put their money in, and pretty much nothing else:

Office: Build to suit; Mixed-use urban; Medical
Industrial: Build to suit; Warehouse
Retail: Neighborhood center; Lifestyle center; Big-box anchored
Apartment: Suburban garden; Urban high density
Housing: Entry level; Move-up; Luxury; Assisted living/retirement; Resort/Second home
Miscellaneous: Self storage; Mobile home park

Not very inspiring huh? However, let’s take a look at the 19 urban development types that fuel the knowledge economy, based on a list initially produced by renowned urbanist Andres Duany:

A. Primarily Commercial Mixed-Use Buildings
1. Pedestrian-Only Town Center Retail Entertainment Grouping: Providing at least a 50% tenant mix of restaurants, cafes and bars with a predominance of outdoor dining fronting a pedestrian-only paseo or plaza, or pedestrian-oriented street, supported by personal services and unique shops. The principal surrounding building types would include triple mixed-use mid-rises and flats (see following building types.) The Town Center has a typical g.l.a. (gross leasable area) of 30,000 to 100,000 sq. ft.
2. Standard Town Center Retail Entertainment Grouping: Mix of restaurants, personal services and unique shops. The principal surrounding building types would include triple mixed-use mid-rises and flats (see following building types.) A supermarket (often a co-op as chain supermarkets follow a more suburban model) would be a major tenant. The Town Center has a typical g.l.a. (gross leasable area) of 30,000 to 100,000 sq. ft.
3. Neighborhood Center Retail Entertainment Grouping: Providing a neighborhood- determined tenant mix of third-place-oriented restaurants and pubs (neighborhood-friendly places beyond home and work), personal services and convenience goods. It has a typical g.l.a. of about 20,000 sq. ft. It is anchored by a popular restaurant or pub.
4. Triple Mixed-Use Flat: Three-four story flat, one or two units/rods in width, with independent retail on the ground floor, loft office space on the second floor, and loft-type residential on the third/fourth floors, with roof deck. Parking in the rear or below. These can be used as infill or as modular buildings to develop either the Town or Neighborhood Center Retail Entertainment Grouping.
5. Triple Mixed-Use Mid-Rise: Three-six story mid-rise building, three to eight units/rods in width, with independent retail on the ground floor, loft office space on the second floor, and loft-type residential on the third/fourth floors, with roof deck. Maximum floor plate size: 25,000 sf. Parking in the rear. These can be used as infill or as modular buildings to develop the Town Center Retail Entertainment Grouping.

B. Primarily Residential Mixed-Use Buildings
6. Mixed-Use Loft Apartment Mid-Rise: Three-six story mid-rise building, three to eight/rods in width, with independent retail on the ground floor, loft-type residential on the second-third/sixth floors, with roof deck. Parking in the rear or below. These are located on primary streets and not in any Retail Entertainment Groupings. Loft Apartments are defined here as lofts with enclosed bedrooms.
7. Mixed-Use Loft Apartment Flat: Three-four story flat, one or two units/rods in width, with independent retail on the ground floor and loft apartments on the second to third/fourth floors, with roof deck. Parking in the rear. These are located on primary streets and not in any Retail Entertainment Groupings. Loft Apartments are defined here as lofts with enclosed bedrooms.
8. Mixed-Use Mini-Condo Mid-Rise: Three-six story mid-rise building with 300-500 s.f. units and limited to no parking over ground-floor retail. These are located in very urban, transit-oriented locations for people seeking attainably-priced units and don’t own cars.
9. Loft Apartment House: An unconventional apartment building with every apartment available for residential and/or commercial use. The ceilings must be taller to pemit the commercial depth (a distance from windows greater than that necessary for a residential unit.)
10. Live-Work Units: Rowhouses with the first story available as a commercial space, either independently leased or in association with the residential unit above. These are more costly units for the higher end of the market. Parking in the rear. These can be located in the Neighborhood Center Retail Entertainment Group or on a primary street.

C. Exclusively Residential Buildings
11. Loft Apartment House: Conventional apartment buildings with parking behind or below. These are preferable as vertical buildings (two, four or six units per floor) rather than as continuous hallway buildings, as the scale of the smaller buildings yields a better urban fabric more compatible with houses and other mixed use. The trick here is to avoid the requirement of contiguous clustering of the type in the minimum of hundreds of units.
12. Courtyard Apartments: A building that occupies the boundaries of its lot while internally defining one or more private patios. This is the most urban of types as it is able to shield the private realm from all sides. The front of the building is identical to a Loft
Apartment House.
13. Townhouses with an Ancillary Building: The conventional types with the addition of a detached outbuilding or attached backbuilding to its rear. These premises are available for home occupations or as an ancillary rental units. They generate well over $1000 a month with a kitchen and separate bedroom at about 400 sq. ft.
14. Green-fronting Townhouses: Conventional attached types on small lots with the addition of shared enfronting square, green or close in condominium association. A variant to the open space is a shared area within the inner block, usually a playground. The trick here is to have the common open space rated in the appraisal.
15. Paseo Housing Grouping: An arrangement of any of the above residential building types fronting both sides of a pedestrian-only street (paseo). Parking in the rear. These were easily the fastest selling units at Kentlands, MD and largely responsible for the success of the Rosemary Beach development in Pensacola, FL.
16. The Inn: A small hotel ranging from 30 to 80 rooms. Many towns do not have lodging available because the minimum standards are in the hundreds. It is as important to note that some excellent urban locations are too small for large hotels. These inns do not need to have restaurants and other costly services as the rest of the town would provide them in seemless proximity. The trick here is to get the size down.

D. Exclusively Commercial Buildings
17. Loft Office Mid-Rise: A two-six story open floor plan office building with high exposed ceilings; large floor to ceiling windows with great views; and ample daylighting. These are the types of buildings that are often candidates for green building and high-tech real estate awards. Maximum floor plate size: 25,000 sf. Parking in the rear. Some alternative uses afforded by such a flexible building type is a series of artist studios on one floor such as the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, or for an open market on the ground floor for merchants like at Faneuil Hall in Boston or the Fells Point Market in Baltimore, even a live music venue and/or cafe. Essentially this would be the entrepreneurs’ dream workplace.
18. Avenue Office Grouping: A converted office building enfronting a mixed-use thoroughfare rather than associated to a specialized office park. The parking is relegated to the rear of the building. This building has the capability of being seamlessly connected to other supportive building types. There are many still-successful historic examples. Palmer Square in Princeton is one of the best. The largest building should have a footprint no larger than 25,000 sq. ft.
19. Urban Villa: A building similar to a large house, able to accommodate a wide variety of uses, including conventional apartments, single-room occupancy units (the old boarding home), bed & breakfast inn, small professional office, restaurant. The model is the old, converted mansion of the inner city. This is a useful and resilient building type which can evolve organically.

Image: Rockville Town Center, Maryland, a hybrid of Pedestrian Only and Standard Town Center Retail Entertainment Grouping types.

  • Christopher Spencer

    On the list, there seems only to be one type of housing, green townhouses, suitable for creative people with children. What positive alternatives can we offer to this audience? Where I live, sprawl consists almost exclusively of families fleeing to the suburbs. Turning mature communities into adult-living enclaves doesn’t address the problem. I think a lot of creatives with kids would prefer to live in high density environments, but in Edmonton, alas, this kind of housing, say three bedrooms, common green space and an indoor playroom, does not exist.

  • James McMurray

    An interesting exercise, Neil. Given how fine-grained each of these products is, do you believe that Wall Street traders will be able to effectively wheel and deal these types of assets? Unfortunately, I’m skeptical that even the 4 major groupings you show will ever become “standardized” in the same way that suburban assets have evolved.

    Perhaps there are enough examples of these products to illustrate an emerging standardization? Do you know if Duany has demonstrated widespread patterns across multiple metro areas that truly indicate a “standardized” urban product type? That would be interesting to see!

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