Words have meanings….

Last week I posted a blog after visiting my favorite mixed use project. The project is a good comparison for LMT since we’ll have more greenfield pressure here at in-fill locations. The post outlines critical ingredients that a mixed use project must have.

Throughout the last year I’ve taken issue with board members and developers giving projects certain labels that do not apply. Words have meanings. You cannot just call something ‘mixed use’ when it isn’t. Just because it ‘smushes’ two incompatible uses together on a small parcel or two totally incompatible projects are built the same time doesn’t make it a mixed use project. To label a project as something it isn’t is misleading. More harm than good is done when you lead the public to believe they are getting they aren’t.

The local media reinforces this when they regurgitate and parrot developers mis-use of smart growth terminology terms in articles. The Jaindl warehouse project is NOT a mixed use project. Despite Mr. J’s assertions. It just isn’t.

Tonight the township has a resolution to apply for a grant on behalf of Hamilton Crossings. In the grant resolution they label the project as mixed use. It is not. Again, not even close. The Hamilton Crossings project has potential, (though it should definitely not be subsidized with taxpayer money) I like the developer. Good guy. I think he’s community friendly. But this isn’t a mixed use project.

It’s a suburban strip shopping center. Perhaps the Cadillac of a suburban strips, but a strip nonetheless. You can maybe get away with calling it a commercial town center. But not mixed use. Mixed use means something.

Yesterday strongtowns posted this great new SID TV video. This reinforces what is and is not a mixed use project.

Modern zoning regulations are concerned primarily with how a property is being used. What is overlooked is how the buildings and other improvements interact with the public realm and each other.

The neighborhood in this video represents the opposite of mixed use. It is what we have in many locations here in Lower Macungie albeit ours are shinier and newer with superficial bells and whistles. You could make this same video about Caramoor Village. Or the Trexlertown Mall and apartments. Or even Hamilton Crossings. If neighbors ask for buffers you have a Euclidean segregated project. You buffer incompatible uses. If your dealing with buffers or buffering you don’t have a mixed use project. You have two incompatible uses.

Look at the neighborhood in the video then take another look at the Lancaster post. Go beyond the fact that Lancaster is ‘shiny and new’ and Brainard isn’t. Really look to form and function. How the neighborhood ‘works’. The differences are obvious.

Words have meanings and their meanings are important. Stop throwing around terms when the meaning doesn’t apply.

This is mixed use

Mixed use – Retail 1st floor, apartments 2nd floor. Intregrated design. Emphasis on pedestrians. Strong neighborhood character. Compact design. Compatability. NO buffers needed here cause everything works together.

This is NOT mixed use. 

Strip Commercial next to residential. Segregated, not compact, no neighborhood integration. Residents see backs of stores. Emphasis on buffers.

This IS Mixed use:

This mixed use development has distinct qualities. Residential and Commercial are integrated. Plenty of parking, but cars do not dominate here. No buffers needed here!

This is a warehouse adjacent to a housing development. This is NOT mixed use.

This is a warehouse development next to a housing development. Just because they were built around the same time doesn’t make it a mixed use project. This is two incompatible uses built (Smushed) next to each other requiring buffering. That is the opposite of mixed use. Emphasis on large supersized buffers.