Sy Perkowitz – Blending Form and Function in Mixed-Use Projects

November 7, 2014

IRVINE, CA—There’s a lot more to developing mixed-use projects than meets the eye, Simon Perkowitz, principal and head of KTGY’s commercial design studio, tells exclusively. Perkowitz believes it is imperative to be forward thinking when planning these developments.

“Tenants can come and go; therefore, the retail space needs to have design flexibility to accommodate various types of businesses,” says Perkowitz. “Integrating the different uses in a mixed-use retail/residentialdevelopment is part science, part art. Although retail needs to be recognized as a distinct element, it is important to make sure that the design is integrated and encompasses the whole building’s uses and not as two separately designed buildings.”

With the resurgence in development, Perkowitz says that some residential developers are adding a retail component to their mid-rise and high-rise residential projects, and some retail developers are adding residential. “Designers and developers need to be very aware of how to blend the architectural aesthetic, signage and branding to respond to both the community’s and the stakeholders’ visions.”

Perkowitz says his firm recently added Michael Tseng as director of design and planning and Steve Stoyanov as a senior designer in its Irvine office to further expand the capabilities of its commercial design studio. “It has been another record year for KTGY’s commercial design studio, and we are grateful to be partnering with our clients to design great places from coast to coast.”

Perkowitz lists key issues to consider when designing and developing mixed-use projects.

  1. Evaluate project site constraints and attributes: zoning, codes, context and surrounding infrastructure. Perkowitz suggests assessing all potential vehicular access points, including one-way streets and/or alleys, points of utility service as well as adequacy of existing utilities to support intended uses, plus visibility and traffic counts. Another consideration is to review potential trash storage and pickup locations—you certainly want these accessible, but hidden, he says.
  2. Review preliminary program for retail uses and residential density. Perkowitz says to consider whether or not you will have restaurant uses and a multitenant building vs. a single retail tenant. Research the minimum ceiling heights and utilities that will be required, he advises. Each tenant will also have its own parking needs and want convenient access from retail parking to storefronts/entries.
  3. Conceptual considerations. Separation of retail and residential vehicular access points is important, says Perkowitz. Shoppers prefer convenient retail at grade, where possible. He also suggests evaluating traffic counts, context and visibility (for placement of signage) to determine the best positioning for street frontage. Another consideration, he says, is the approach for tenant deliveries—the layout must accommodate delivery trucks and allow for their turning radius.
  4. Additional considerations. Establish the minimum height of your finished ceiling based on anticipated retail users, which is typically a 16-ft. minimum to the lowest portion of the structure and exposed pipes above the retail, says Perkowitz. Assume that a 20-ft. minimum is required between the sidewalk and the top of the podium deck elevation. Know the HVAC and ventilation requirements for restaurants, including potential exhaust-shaft locations, and provide a location for the grease interceptor. Also, make provisions for signage: retail, way-finding and residential lobby.

Perkowitz adds that a site and/or building’s design consideration must address the various users’ needs and different peak activity times. “Since mixed-use developments typically support activity throughout the day as well as into the evening, the site design and building orientation are critical to establishing an environment that allows for a variety of uses with minimal impact on the other uses 24/7. Compatibility between the residential units and the retail and/or restaurant establishments can be accomplished by including separate entrances and orienting the residential units toward a plaza area, courtyard or green space.”