The Mixed Tape: Combining All Your Favorites

Monday, August 24th, 2015
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Those old mixed tapes were great back in the day. Imagine building cities the same way.

Mixed tapes contained all your favourites. No wannabes, just the best songs. And every song was different, curated by you, or a friend, for listening pleasure. They combined different artists, different genres and different eras. There was something for everyone.

This is how our communities should be: diverse and interesting, a collection of great things, in one place, for all to benefit. When it comes to mixed use, I will leave it to my #planningnerds to indulge you on the technical elements. But for today, I offer you my mixed tape of mixed use favourites from an experiential perspective.

On this mixed tape, I have decided to showcase some of the 30-plus cities I visited in North America over the past two years. I have picked a selection of those that are less showcased, but worthy of a mention. I have visited all of these projects, which scale from small spaces, buildings and parks, through to large precincts and whole neighbourhoods. So here goes:

District Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

I once delivered a training course at District Hall, in 2013. Incubator start-up pods were set up across the hallway, a restaurant was perched out the front, a small conference was underway in the belly of the building and cappuccinos were being poured at the café inside. District Hall has a solid mixed use repertoire, but I think it’s what it does for the surrounding neighbourhood that makes the real impact. It plays a critical role within the larger 1,000-acre Boston Innovation District, Boston’s urban lab which has been designed to foster innovation and sustainability leadership across public, private and the civic sectors. District Hall also claims the title of the world’s first free-standing public innovation centre.

Indigo @ Twelve West, Portland, Oregon

This building redefines mixed use from top to bottom. It features retail on the ground floor, four floors of office space, apartments, an indoor dog park, a gym, a ground floor gallery, a green roof trail and a shared boardroom on the top deck. Indigo @ Twelve West is a 20-minute living property developed by Gerding Edlen, a local property developer gone national. This building was designed by ZGF Architects (who also tenant the building), has achieved LEED Platinum certification, and includes sustainability features inside and out, including its connection to a district cooling system.

Canal Park, Washington DC

A park, electric vehicle charging station, event space, restaurant, geothermal heating and cooling system, ice rink and stormwater management system come together to create the experience that is Canal Park, situated within the newly regenerated Capitol Riverfront neighbourhood in the District of Columbia. I visited this park numerous times, and each experience was different. For instance, it offers water play in summer and ice skating in winter. In spring, the green roof over the restaurant is in bloom. The design team at OLIN nailed this one, which has subsequently gone on to achieve SITES certification. It has also been designed to treat stormwater runoff from neighbouring buildings yet to be developed on the adjacent neighbourhood block.

Canal Park, Washington DC

Canal Park, Washington DC

Zibi, Ottawa and Gatineau, Canada

Straddling the cities of Ottawa (Ontario) and Gatineau (Qubec) in Canada, ZIBI is positioning itself as a next generation sustainable community. The vision of the Windmill Development Group (the team behind Dockside Green in Victoria, BC), this incredible project melds historic buildings with new builds, creating a palette of uses that span incubator spaces, traditional offices, residential, extensive open space, retail and temporary pop-up and transitionary spaces. This project is One Planet Communities endorsed and is one for the urban sustainability nerds to watch. In particular, Zibi is programmed to be running on zero carbon energy by 2020 thanks to the use of waste heat from a nearby paper mill and on-site hydro power at the stunning Chaudière Falls.

Austin Power Plant, Austin Texas

The Seaholm Powerplant is nestled within the Seaholm EcoDistrict, an 85-acre industrial brownfield redevelopment site. I love this building. Having undergone major adaptive reuse by the private sector, it is now home to the Athenahealth head office, the soon to be opened restaurant Boiler Nine, and a community engagement space run by the City of Austin. For the power station reuse enthusiasts, this project is pure eye candy. Its art deco design is just amazing, and with the smoke stacks to remain on site, it is a historical landmark living a new life.

Seaholm Powerplant

Seaholm Powerplant

Capitol Hill Neighbourhood, Seattle, Washington

The Capitol Hill Neighbourhood is the most densely populated urban village in the Pacific Northwest. One of the early generation ecodistricts (Capitol Hill Ecodistrict) it has always been a diverse and inclusive community, boasting some of Seattle’s best nightlife, restaurants, boutique retail and tech incubators. It has long been the hub of the city’s LGBT community, accommodates a high percentage of low income residents, hosts Seattle Central College, Starbucks’ flagship Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room and one of the city’s largest parks (Volunteer Park). The Capitol Hill neighbourhood continues to be transformed as newer housing is developed and retail expanded due to the demand created from the Silicon Valley migrants heading north to seek a more affordable lifestyle. To top it off, Capitol Hill is the home of the world’s most sustainable office building, the Bullitt Center.

Rainbow Crossroads in Capitol Hill

Rainbow Crossroads in Capitol Hill

These six mixed use classics represent my mixed tape A-side. Stay tuned for the B-side best-of later in the year.

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