Activating Ground Floors in Mixed-Use Buildings After COVID

Zoning Practice — August 2022

By Thomas Smith


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No planning department could anticipate all the store closings that have occurred in the last 10 years or the dramatic declines in response to COVID shutdowns. E-commerce has grown at an exponential rate, diminishing traffic in local stores. During the pandemic, consumers radically changed spending habits. People didn't leave their homes. They had their groceries delivered. They avoided eating in restaurants and just ordered takeout. When they wanted to shop, they went online to Amazon or Walmart.

With all these changes, planning departments need to reevaluate their commercial districts and commercial corridors. They need strategies that encourage the clustering and consolidation of retail outlets into viable centers and corridors. They need to rezone corridors and centers with high vacancy rates, especially when they determine that these locations cannot be sustained or redeveloped successfully.

This issue of Zoning Practice looks at the actions of several communities trying to promote successful mixed-use development, including communities that have adopted stricter criteria for where ground-floor retail is appropriate and communities that have reduced the number of locations where ground-floor retail is mandated. It also examines several communities who have broadened the definition of acceptable ground-floor uses to enhance the marketability of these spaces, while still maintaining active and interesting commercial corridors.


Page Count
Date Published
Aug. 1, 2022
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Thomas Smith