Mixed Use Lives

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Oct 26

Nearly every time I talk to a city planner or a neighbor about mixed use, I see them getting nervous. NIMBY behavior is never very far away.

The fact is that mixed use has been with us since caveman days when folks huddled in caves that they used as: art studios, shelters, food prep zones, entertainment areas, butcheries, hospitals, old folks homes, tool fabrication foundries/maker spaces, funeral homes, churches etc.

Yesterday, I got stranded downtown–there were no Ubers in the area (it was rush hour) so I had to walk out of there, west towards home until I got to a zone where some were available. In essence, I staged myself. 

It was an adventure (Harry).

I can’t tell you how many places I passed

on my walkabout

where you had a residence in front and a commercial use in back like this one:


In city after city, and on rural roads everywhere, you see it. Mom and dad live in front and have some kind of warehouse, shop, workshop, commercial operation in back.

These are valuable products; I sell a ton of them. And they add to local property values, all else being equal (ie, that there is no impact on public safety). 

Ottawa recently hired consultants to conduct a million dollar Employment Lands Study; I read their final report.

It’s awful. How come?

-restricts uses for both rural and urban industrial property

-encourages conversion of employment lands to other uses, which is code for more cookie-cutter single family homes with nary a store or employment of learning opportunity anywhere nearby

-leaves out valuable highway interchanges where commercial/industrial development should occur

-deletes a longterm goal of 1.3 jobs per household in the suburbs (a goal only west end Kanata has achieved) ensuring that Orleans, Barrhaven and Riverside South are condemned to be bedroom communities forever.

What should they have done?

-expanded uses permitted in industrial, enterprise and employments lands to include more services, more retail, more residential, more mixed use, more institutional.

They’ve even banned churches and community centers on employment lands. Sheesh.

What I want to see is a new kind of homebuilder evolve.

One who builds a home with an in-home suite, a coach house in back, micro garage offices (like mine), micro retail, storage, play area/backyard games, workshops and maker spaces on one single site!

Everything old is new again.

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

See also: 

La Binerie du Quebec 


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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.