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Why mixed-use developments are on the rise - and why they're a smart investment

By Gearoid Collins

Why mixed-use developments are on the rise – and why they’re a smart investment

Office towers and apartment buildings. Retail outlets and restaurants. Gyms, art installations, bars and cafés. All within moments and metres of each other. This is Paddington Central, a mixed-use development in the heart of London. It’s home to five office buildings, two apartment complexes, a four-star hotel, and a host of retail and entertainment options.

Mixed-use developments like this are becoming more common in big cities across Europe and North America. That’s good news for property developers and investors, who stand to gain from higher occupancy rates and other benefits I’ll cover later in this blog. But there’s a condition to reaping those benefits: mixed-use developments must be attractive spaces for residents and businesses alike. Increasingly, this demands smart technology and the connectivity to support it. Over two thirds of adults in the UK want digitally connected properties for the convenience they offer. And in our new research report on 5G densification, nearly two thirds of public and private companies in the UK and Ireland say 5G has a direct impact on their performance.

But before we get into that, let’s take a closer look at the rising trend of mixed-use developments and the opportunities that come with it.

What’s behind the mixed-use development trend

At their core, mixed-use developments are about bringing together residential, retail, commercial and other asset classes in one area. Think of it as the “live-work-play” model. People can live close to where they work, where they shop, where they go out to eat and where they head to relax. Employees can more easily run errands on breaks, eat out for lunch and unwind after work. Employers can access larger talent pools by renting space near densely populated areas.

Behind the rise of multi-use developments are efforts to manage population growth, foster social cohesion, promote economic development, and create more accessible and sustainable living spaces. They’re closely tied to concepts like the 15-minute city and ‘complete neighbourhoods’ that promise to create stronger, healthier, more liveable communities. Concepts that have been embraced by municipalities across the UK, including Ipswich, Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield and Canterbury.

By design, many mixed-use developments offer residential housing at a variety of price points. This creates a balanced, diverse rental pool that helps keep vacancy rates low. It also helps commercial tenants, who’ll have varying salaries and budgets across the positions they need to fill. And more people means more business for local retailers.

Mixed-use developments also foster social cohesion. The right blend of services, employment and housing in a mixed-use area? That’s not just a development. That’s a community. Meeting residents’ needs within a 15-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride means you’ve built something special – especially if the businesses meeting those needs are local. Just like Bristol’s Wapping Wharf, a mixed-use development home to a thriving community and numerous independent shops, bars and cafés. More economic opportunity and more high-quality, affordable housing means more growth. Better living. And healthier, happier people.

Cities have also taken this approach to regenerate unused or derelict areas as well as underserved or struggling neighbourhoods. In Red Bank, Manchester, projects like the mixed-use Crown View tower are part of a £4-billion regeneration project that will transform underused areas into flourishing communities.

Adding value for communities – and developers

Mixed-use developments are great for residents, retailers and employers. But what about developers? How can investing in these types of properties pay off?

Employers want to be close to population centres. Employees want to be closer to where they work. That’s exactly what mixed-use developments provide, which makes it easier to maximise rental income by minimising vacancy rates. Add in stores, cinemas and small businesses and you have an economic ecosystem that draws and keeps high-quality tenants – both residential and commercial. Take a look at London’s Battersea Power Station redevelopment, which is turning an industrial brownfield site into a mixed-use development that includes Apple’s London headquarters. When it’s done, 25,000 people will live, work and enjoy 19 acres of public space in the area.

With higher occupancy and lower vacancy rates, mixed-used developments can offer investors a steady stream of rental income that grows as the community does. It’s all about making these developments attractive places to live, work and play.

Connecting mixed-use communities

Tenant satisfaction is key to high occupancy rates. The quality of a property’s connectivity plays a huge role in that. Businesses and employers need fast, reliable connectivity to stay productive and innovate. And it’s just as essential for residents, who need it to work, socialise and unwind.

Connectivity has to be more than fast. It must be seamless. The point of these developments is to give people everything they need close by. That’s not going to be a big draw if their signal drops as they’re going from home to work, hitting the gym or grabbing a bite to eat.

Great connectivity can also support innovative apps and digital services that help build a more cohesive community. It could be a WhatsApp group for local residents. Or an app like My Paddington Central, which lets everyone in the area access retail offers, reserve everything from a table in a restaurant to a timeslot in a meeting space, and learn about local events.

Partner with experience

Bringing top-tier connectivity to a mixed-use development takes a partner with experience and the right solutions. At Boldyn Networks, we have diverse experience delivering high-grade connectivity for large-scale projects globally and across the UK. In London, we’re working to transform the London Underground into a world-class mobile connected system. We’re doing this with our base station hotels, which house all the necessary equipment to get the underground connected. With this system we can deliver mobile signal directly into buildings through the cloud. These centralised hubs, allow us to deploy connectivity effortlessly. Better yet, its unobtrusive, with most of our network operating in the cloud or from these hubs, offering a rapid and cost-effective deployment.

And in Sunderland, we helped design and build a ‘network of networks’, laying the foundation for a smart city. Supporting everything from healthcare to transportation to public safety and education, our wireless connectivity solutions are easily transferable to mixed used developments.

We have the team, technology, experience and expertise to support developers as they build the smart, connected communities of the future. And we’d be happy to discuss how we can support your project.


If you're an occupier or owner of a commercial office building. The manager of large residential properties or planning the build of a new mixed use property. Whatever type of building, we can help you connect it.