A typical project for planners is finding “higher-and-better” uses for land (in this context, “higher” doesn’t mean skyscrapers); land uses are temporal, and it’s possible that a given parcel of land will (at some point in time) evolve in its use. For better or worse, land use organization and building forms inhabited by uses influence our daily decisions, and (ultimately) lifestyles; we may grow healthier and accrue monetary savings, or burdened by health issues and separated from socioeconomic opportunities. Over time, planners and towns became creative in how uses and their buildings interacted with each other, and within larger scales of the built environment. One development form has made towns more hospitable and functional for everyone.
Mixed-use development (MXD) is exactly what the phrase implies: Development containing multiple land uses. Uses make up zones; if zoning codes typically consist of residential, commercial, and industrial areas, then rowhomes, retail (e.g. shopping malls), and light manufacturing are respective examples of uses. MXDs can be found in any of the three aforementioned zones (or in special zones), and can be oriented vertically (e.g. skyscraper) or horizontally (e.g. consecutive two-story buildings, with residential space above ground-level retail). While MXDs function well individually, their social benefits increase exponentially when they’re clustered together within special districts (e.g. downtowns, rail stations, arts districts, etc.). Such development also simplifies zoning codes in terms of what uses are allowed where (e.g. residential and retail uses might in close proximity to each other, as could be the case with office and manufacturing uses).
Trenton has long built MXD, and there’s no shortage of opportunities for the city to leverage this development, particularly during its Trenton250 master plan. Some of the issues impacting Trentonians (e.g. access to jobs; physical health; etc.) are systemic in nature, and require comprehensive solutions; building more MXD likely won’t be all that needs to be done to address these and other concerns. Being the diverse citizenry that we are, we need an environment that supports our equally-eclectic goals.