The Mixed-Use Conundrum

APA Colorado Chapter


Friday, October 6, 2017
1:25 p.m. - 2:25 p.m. MDT

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Mixed-Use development, particularly in commercial areas, has been a desirable goal for many communities with the potential promise of offering a multi-functional, vibrant downtown. But what happens when an owner of a penthouse decides the penthouse is not big enough or that the commercial business below or next door is a LULU? Learn from two resort communities on the effect that market forces have had on their downtowns.

Learning Objectives:

1. Attendees will learn that large disparities in square foot sales between different use types may become a driver for unintended consequences.

2. Attendees will learn that residential unit size caps result in creative ‘commercial’ uses.

3. Attendees will learn about the different strategies two resort communities have taken to encourage a viable commercial core.


The session will provide examples from both Aspen and Crested Butte on the unintended effects market forces can have on a downtown and an individual building, as well as any current or future steps each community is taking or considering to maintain downtown vitality.

Aspen – After declining sales tax revenue in the early 2000s, Aspen committed to becoming a multi-functional downtown and “infill regulations” were subsequently developed encouraging new development and on-site housing in downtown buildings. The first buildings approved included large penthouse units and an emergency ordinance was approved to limit unit size with the hope for more, not less, lights on. Even with the cap, suspect merging of residential and commercial units has occurred. Examples of building code compliant occupancies such as a commercial ‘bar’ being promoted as a media room will be shown. Average sales per square foot for downtown residential space compared to commercial space over time will be provided to highlight how the residential component of a building becomes the economic driver with no concern of having businesses in place on the ground floor (premium commercial spaces) or in second tier spaces, such as the basement, where locally serving commercial uses have often thrived.

Crested Butte – For a number of years Crested Butte has prohibited the development of new residential units within its commercial district but is seeing the remodeling of existing residential units begin to “take over” other parts of a building. Affordable housing units are built with the same level of finishes as the free-market unit, with convenient access between the two units. This results in less local working residents actually living in the downtown and benefitting from required inclusionary zoning requirements.

Summary – Both Crested Butte and Aspen, with different regulations have attempted to ensure the vitality of their commercial downtowns. If the goal was vitality, an outcome to some degree, has been sterility. In closing, we will review the steps Aspen and Crested Butte have taken or are thinking of taking to try and stop these unintended consequences, inclusive of banning free-market development and limiting the uses in mixed-use buildings. 

CM Criteria

1. The content of the presentation will provide a cautionary tale on the potential downside of mixed-use development and educate planners on practical tips that can be used to gauge when a community may start to face unwanted consequences due to real estate values. It will also communicate strategies that different communities have employed to maintain commercial businesses in the downtown and limit the potential uses that could inhibit

2. All panel speakers are AICP certified and have over a 30 years of experience in local government and land use.

3. We will provide a sign-in sheet to gauge attendance and a brief questionnaire to gauge the content. The point of contact will be Jennifer Phelan.



Jennifer Phelan, AICP

Confirmed Speaker


Dara MacDonald

Confirmed Speaker

Dara MacDonald is currently serving as Town Manager for the Town of Crested Butte, CO. Prior to that she worked as the City Administrator for Salida, CO for four years. Before crossing to the dark side she had been working as a municipal planner in mountain communities since 2002. In ... Read More

Contact Info

Shelia Booth,