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Mixed-Use Zoning

Mixed-use zoning - the integration of housing, civic facilities and commercial areas including retail, restaurants and offices - is a key tool in "smart growth" planning. Mixed-use zoning helps reduce traffic congestion, preserves open space and natural resources, and builds communities. It has also been shown to help revitalize downtown areas and spur economic growth.

Most commercial use is relatively benign, and the practice of locating businesses and residential areas in close proximity makes good sense. One caveat: planners and zoning boards should be aware that businesses which use chemical toxins (e.g., dry-cleaners using perchloroethylene or businesses using industrial solvents) do not make suitable neighbors in mixed-use environments.

Commercial store fronts

The Township of Hampden, PA website details its process for forming a mixed-use zoning district to allow for commercial and residential redevelopment of an older part of town in order to better serve the future needs of residents and business owners.

Portsmouth, NH undertook mixed-use zoning amendments after a November 2016 Report from the City’s Housing Committee recommended such amendments to increase the supply and diversity of housing stock in the city.


Beacon, NY's Comprehensive Plan employs a variety of zoning, incentive and other strategies to achieve specific objectives to preserve important environmental and historic resources and improve the quality of life.

Baltimore, MD’s 2017 revision to its zoning code includes a highly anticipated new zoning category,“industrial mixed-use,” which both city officials and local developers hope will spur economic development while preserving neighborhood character throughout the city.


The Complete Communities Toolbox from the University of Delaware summarizes various types of mixed-use development.

The Sustainable Development Code helps local governments build more resilient, environmentally conscious, economically secure, and socially equitable communities. Their website contains vast resources for cities and towns.

The Massachusetts Metropolitan area planning council has produced a "Mixed Use Citizens Guide"

The American Planning Association provides an overview of the structure of land-development regulations and is a guide to the development of model smart growth ordinances, including models that may be adapted by local governments.

The Mixed-Use Development Handbook is available to order from the Urban Land Institute.

The Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council has produced an excellent resource on smart growth and regional planning. 


[1] Durand, C. P., et al (2011) A systematic review of built environment factors related to physical activity and obesity risk: Implications for smart growth urban planning. Obesity Reviews, 12(5).

[2] Forsyth, A., et al. (2008). Design and Destinations: Factors Influencing Walking and Total Physical Activity. Urban Studies, 45(9), 1973-1996.

[3] Wolf-Powers, L. (2005). Up-Zoning New York Citys Mixed-Use Neighborhoods. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 24(4), 379-393. 


[4] Hirt, S. A. (2016). Rooting out mixed use: Revisiting the original rationales. Land Use Policy, 50, 134-147.

[5] Wilson, S., et al. (2008). How Planning and Zoning Contribute to Inequitable Development, Neighborhood Health, and Environmental Injustice. Environmental Justice, 1(4), 211-216. 

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