Four negatives of mixed-use developments

Mixed use develoment

In a recent conversation with a friend, he told me how he dreads weekday mornings, especially Mondays. Crawling through traffic in his daily commute to and from work gives him a splitting headache sometimes. But how can we tackle this problem that seems a constant thread in almost every city?  

Calls for the siting of workplaces and other commercial land uses close to homes, to limit these commuting times have been gaining some traction. Even in some cities like Shanghai, there are multi-use structures; retail shops, offices and housing units on different floors in the same building. If this is done properly, there are tremendous benefits. Shorter commute times, leading to more peak hours on the job and (hopefully) higher productivity. On the other hand, if improperly managed, there could be serious consequences. Here are a few problems that could arise as a result of improperly executed mixed-use developments.   

Noise and environmental pollution from vehicular traffic

Consider the scenario of a popular retail centre attracting lots of traffic sited a few blocks from a similarly thriving restaurant. A few blocks away is a block of residential units sharing boundaries with a university and a research center. The vehicular traffic coming from shoppers, diners, students and researchers could pose some challenges to the residents in the neighbourhood. Think the noise from the tooting of car horns and the fumes emitted by their vehicles. All these could end up causing so much discomfort to nearby residents.


If residential area speed limits are not strictly enforced, there could be cases of vehicles knocking down other road users, especially kids and the elderly. With homes sited very close to, say, shopping centers or markets, there will always be kids in the neighbourhood playing (too) close to roads. As happens in a lot of cities, most commercial land uses are sited in the central business districts, quite removed from residential areas. In such instances, there aren’t too many kids wandering close to the roads. Risks of getting knocked down by vehicles are quite low.

Filth and congestion

In some cities where markets generate a lot of waste, siting residential facilities in the same neighbourhood ought to be given a hard and long second thought. The stench from the waste produced could pose serious discomfort to neighbouring residential and even other commercial users. And we haven’t even mentioned the traffic situation and related congestion, especially on dedicated market days. What about the likelihood of the surge in criminal activities as a result of the congestion?

Potential psychological issues

Isn’t what happens at the office supposed to remain at the office? (please help with the right adage, thanks). There is the need to leave the work scene, unplug, take your mind off of work completely and recharge the batteries after work and on weekends, right? There is a strong case that achieving all this will be difficult where your office is just a few floors beneath your bedroom. Worse, your elevator ride takes you right by your office floor. Maybe your workplace is just a minute’s walk or drive from home. This is not ideal for those who do high pressure and stressful jobs. 

In summary, mixed-used communities, particularly high-density developments have several great benefits. The biggest is the potential to cut carbon emissions by reducing long commutes to work and other functions of modern society. However, a thorough analysis must be conducted on all the related effects. Accidents, noise and environmental pollution from vehicles, filth and congestion and potential psychological issues must all be carefully considered. Would you be open to living in a mixed-use neighbourhood?

Boat Sekyere

Boat Sekyere

Boat is a valuer fascinated by sustainable urban land use planning. He was recently selected as a Local Pathways Fellow of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN Youth) - a global Fellowship of 128 young leaders who will champion SDG 11 in their cities. When he's not reading another e-book, he's out photographing an event (@rsbpictures) or cycling in his hood, binge listening to his favorite podcasts. Say hi at

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