In case you haven’t noticed from our many newsletters, workshops and Come Home to Downtown program – not to mention our mission and values – we’re big proponents of mixed-use development in our downtowns and towns centers. Without getting too technical, this basically means we’re in favor of places that have a vibrant mix of uses (shops, restaurants, businesses, housing, etc.) existing side-by-side, and sometimes even within the same building. Ultimately, this mixed-use development should fit within a vibrant mix of transportation options (cars, buses, walking, biking, handicap accessibility) and people (old, young, higher-income, lower-income, black, white, Hispanic, etc.).
The trouble, as we’re finding in detail through our Come Home to Downtown program, is that creating buildings with a mix of uses (in this case housing above commercial space) is all too often hindered by a lack of financing, far more than a lack of desire or demand. Rehabbing under-utilized small downtown properties is often cost-prohibitive to the owners – at least in the early years before there’s enough demand to raise rents to a sustainable level. Finding the financing to make these deals work is complex, time-consuming and sparse.
This is a shame, because these types of developments have a lot to offer. As we’ve noted, they’re economic rock stars – costing less to service/maintain as a result of their density, generating more revenue due to their built-in resident customer base, andfaring far better during financial downturns due to their diversity of residents, patrons and merchants. And here in Connecticut they have the potential to solve another dilemma, being the type of neighborhood that can serve both the population we’ll have in the coming decades (a massive wave of those aged 65+ who will require multiple services) and the one we’ll seek (young people aged 18-64 who’ll be needed as workers, homeowners and tax-payers).