Integrated or mixed-use developments bring multiple uses and amenities—residential, office, retail, and others—in one convenient space. The idea is not new, but as population density increases, planners and developers find themselves under more pressure to come up with the most efficient uses of space. Singapore’s aging population has also nudged developers to design spaces that emphasize accessibility and convenience for the city-state’s growing number of seniors.
“What we have seen of late is this huge push towards integrated development, not just in Singapore but also globally,” said Ong Choon Fah, chief executive officer and head of consulting and research at Edmund Tie & Company, during a panel discussion at the first ULI Singapore Annual Conference.
Ong points to Singapore’s central business district, a compact cluster of skyscrapers that form the epicenter of business activity in the city-state during the day, but fall silent at night. It is simply not the best use of prime real estate. But the inclusion of integrated developments in the area is now bringing more life to the district after office hours.
Integrated developments, particularly those that stretch over larger plots, can also help with energy saving by pooling resources across a range of activities and spaces, said Tony Lombardo, chief executive officer (Asia) of Lendlease. They are also appropriate at a time when Singapore—as with other cities around the world—is looking for ways to reduce the number of cars on the streets. With mixed-use developments reducing the need for long-distance commuting, they offer an opportunity to introduce high-tech transport services like automated vehicles. They also give a boost to personal lifestyle choices like biking or running to work.
But they offer commercial benefits, too. “What’s working for the city is also working for the developer,” Ong added. The inclusion of different utilities within a space doesn’t just allow the city to maximize the limited space that it has, but also offers the developer a narrative with which to market its product. In a mixed-use development, a space isn’t just about offices, or shops, or condominiums—it’s everything. This offers sales departments many opportunities to promote and market the space.
Customers are also more likely to be willing to pay a premium for an integrated development, observed Lombardo: “People who move in see the benefit of the convenience, or they think they can rent out the space to someone working in an office nearby.”
Planning an integrated development, though, requires much more than a consideration of the eventual price tag. “Everyone talks about experience, and it means different things to different people depending on your age and what you like to do,” said Lombardo. The trick, then, is to find a way to mix things up to create spaces that appeal to a range of ages, lifestyles, and preferences.
The Singapore government is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to mixed-use developments. Aaron Tham, director of New Estates Division 2 at JTC Corporation, pointed to the Punggol Digital District, an ongoing development in Singapore’s north coast promising to create 28,000 tech jobs. The district will include commercial and business park uses, as well as the Singapore Institute of Technology campus.
Tham highlights the concepts that underpinned the development of the Punggol Digital District: “One” and “Empathy.” “One,” because the project began as a government initiative that brought different agencies together to create a master plan that could be followed through over the years. “Empathy,” as planners sought to put themselves in the shoes of the space’s future users, anticipating their needs and wants, such as building childcare centers for children of those working in the district.
Still, with technology evolving so quickly, planning ahead is hard. The key, therefore, is to ensure that designs are flexible and able to adapt to long-term change.
Rooftops, for example, can be planned in ways that could be easily converted to cater to drone deliveries or even flying cars. Garages, meanwhile, might be built above ground rather than in the normal basement configuration, thereby allowing parking spaces to be more easily converted should demand decline in line with rising use of autonomous or shared vehicles.