Mixed-use projects are tools in fight against sprawl

The News TribuneMarch 28, 2013 

Not a big fan of urban sprawl? Then you should like mixed-use development – the kind of project being considered for Tacoma’s Proctor District.

“Project 28” is still at a very early stage and apparently not a done deal . But it already has folks in Proctor talking after a conceptual drawing of a six-story project appeared online. There’s concern that adding 135 apartments to the neighborhood would increase traffic, affect parking and displace existing businesses.

This project might never materialize, or it might go forward in some variation of the conceptual plan. Regardless, mixed-use development is part of the future; it’s what cities have to do more of if they’re to accommodate the growth we know is coming to the region.

Planners often envision mixed-use development when they talk about infilling urban growth areas. That helps the region avoid more of the sprawl that gobbles up rural land and taxes local governments’ ability to provide services.

Mixed-use developments – typically buildings with businesses at street level and apartments or condos above – are a useful way to create urban density mandated under the Growth Management Act. They can create desirable synergy: Residential units provide a built-in clientele for nearby businesses, and the businesses allow residents to obtain services, shop and eat out within easy walking distance.

When located near transit lines, mixed-use projects can be perfect places for senior citizens who have downsized or young workers who want to live in a more urban environment. Besides being convenient, they also help keep vehicles off the road. And they contributes to more walkable – and more healthful – neighborhoods.

Project 28 has respectable local backers in Proctor businessmen Bill Evans and Erling Kuester. Although there’s no telling whether this particular project will come to fruition, residents of Proctor – as well as Tacoma’s other districts – should see the value of carefully planned density.

Done right, a mixed-use development not only could fit in well with Proctor but is also almost a blueprint for what the region needs in order to grow up instead of out.

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