The idea of a “mixed-use” development sounds futuristic and new but really nothing could be more traditional. After all, the reason that we even decided to build structures was to give us a place to do our newly found jobs, given to us with the invention of agriculture. Humans started pushing mud into walls and cutting plants for roofs to give them a place to live next to their livestock and crops. You work there all day and you live there all night. Plus, when you had something to barter people could do it right out of your hut.
The idea of separating property into categories for zoning purposes didn’t arise until the industrial revolution although even Paris’s landmark redevelopment under Napoleon III and his visionary head of city planning Baron Hausmann mandated that buildings have retail as the bottom floor and a loft for the business owner to live directly above it. Cities were starting to realize that having homes next to often toxic factories and noisy retail establishments was often creating a nuisance.
But as we have now come to a new digital revolution, it seems like our work and our commerce is creeping back into our home lives. Philippe Boyer of French property firm Covivio recently spoke on about this convergence during a presentation at our after-party for MIPIM PropTech Paris. “I used the word blurring between the property types.” he said. “Residential is becoming office, offices are incorporating retail, hotels are becoming both office and home for a new generation of remote workers.” Covivio is one of the rare few real estate companies that operates almost every type of property. “Having experience in every sector, even hospitality, gives us a lot of data to help benchmark the performance of our buildings. Now we can apply that to the other property types,” Philippe added.
One of the technologies that is helping property companies around the world understand how buildings are able to do their increasingly difficult task of being everything to everyone are tenant engagement apps. We recently released a report on the impact of workplace engagement apps on asset strategy and one of the things that we kept hearing from our dozens of interviews with property professionals was how much more and how much better they were able to collect data thanks to this software.
Toolbox Group is one of the companies creating these digital interfaces for buildings with their technology Mallcomm. Their Director of Business Development, Craig Maguire, also spoke to the partygoers. He explained that since Mallcomm started in the retail property sector specifically to solve a number of needs of not only those operating the property but also those using it. “We saw the need of everyone connected in some way to real estate to be exactly that—much better connected,” he said. “By connecting all the property stakeholders it unlocks every locations’ full sales potential, harnesses the power of data you can collect, transforms the efficiency of operational tasks and ultimately adds value to your location in the eyes of its users. When moving into mixed-used with office and residential you realize that just like you have an atmosphere to create in a retail location, you have a community to build in an office building. An office building can have ten thousand people so it is a rather large community at that. If you can make them happy you can turn that into retention, marketability and revenue.”
For building occupants, mixed-use buildings create the type of convenience and lifestyle that civilizations have been providing for millennia but for the property industry, they represent a much more complicated asset to understand. Being able to get the most out of these types of buildings and campuses requires a more sophisticated method of data collection. Software like tenant engagement apps are able to collect incredibly rich information about a building and its relationship with its occupant, information that couldn’t have even been imagined by zoning pioneers of the early 19th century. So as the lines between property types blur we could see even more importance being placed on these digital interfaces as they are a futuristic way to help us return to our original use for permanent structures.