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What’s the Use of Mixed-Use Buildings?

Last month, Brookfield Properties opened their new mixed-use tower, Manhattan West. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the eight-acre glass tower, which features an outdoor, pedestrian plaza with gardens, seating, and a culture program called Arts Brookfield. For Manhattan, this two-and-a-half acre space is rare, considering its size. Inside, the retail houses over 25 different culinary spaces to offer an array of dining experiences, as well as a medley of wellness storefronts and retail boutiques. 

Located on the west side of Manhattan, this building aims to be an attraction that links with other westside attractions like The High Line, a former railway converted into a public green space and pedestrian trail. But unlike Hudson Yards, it’s not a designated selfie-op. It’s a foodie extravaganza. Manhattan West’s high-end restaurants boast stunning views with sleek dining rooms to match and several tables sure to “impress your clients.”

One of the new restaurants is Ci Siamo, an Italian restaurant with live-fire cooking. Another is a Spanish restaurant called Casa Dani by three-star Michelin Chef Dani Garcia. There’s also a luxury hotel from Pendry with 164 rooms and a retail level with skincare shops including a Peloton store and ritzy coffee shops, among other things. Jason Maurer, Senior Vice President of Retail Leasing, Brookfield Properties, calls it “a premier destination.”

The office space includes The Lofts, a 13-story boutique office building with smaller co-working spaces for young companies and corporate floor plans for larger ones. The companies that already have their offices here include NHL, Ernst & Young, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, JPMorgan Chase, and Amazon.

Also onsite is a 62-story luxury residential tower called The Eugene, where residents are encouraged “to the ‘live, work and play’ environment in the complex,” according to a press release.

“We are New York City’s largest commercial landlord, and we take seriously the responsibility of being great stewards and neighbors and giving back to the communities we call home,” said Callie Haines, executive vice president of the New York and Boston regions for Brookfield Properties. What sets this mixed-use development apart from the rest of the ultra-luxury properties in Manhattan is the public space. It’s “designed for people.”

Brookfield Properties Manhattan West features a pedestrian plaza and houses over 25 different culinary spaces, as well as a wellness storefronts and retail boutiques.  (Credit: Jakob Dahlin)

“The development is eight acres, and two and a half acres is committed to public space, a lively, public plaza with a myriad of seats, tables, and benches that will provide year-round free, public programming,” said Haines. “It creates a welcoming, inclusive environment where people are not only encouraged to visit, but encouraged to stay with all of the office buildings, retail shops, residences, a boutique hotel, and restaurants wrapped around its perimeter.”

When most people think of a mixed-use building like this they assume that some of the office workers will also be residents, but that is not usually the case. A representative from Manhattan West tells Propmodo there is no record, as of yet, of anyone who both lives and works in this new mixed-use property. 

According to Jim Stuart, partner of Matter Real Estate Group and developer of UnCommons (a new mixed-use development coming to Las Vegas), mixed-use properties shouldn’t follow the traditional mixed-use standard. “Mixed-use communities should not exist to offer a comprehensive lifestyle where the commercial occupier is the resident and vice-versa,” said Stuart.

“When done correctly, mixed-use is reflective of the broader community and creates diverse appeal. The gravitational force of that appeal attracts tenants, residents, diners, consumers, and all others. It’s created by a tapestry of shared experiences that instigate valuable interactions among those groups.” 

It comes down to awareness, says Stuart. “As developers, now, more than ever, we have a real responsibility to be observers of the community we aim to serve,” he said. “We need to understand and respect the cultural nuances of that community and ultimately deliver a human-centered experience that honors those truths… If we continue to deliver soulless boxes and homogeneous space measured simply by commercial rents, we deserve to be harshly judged.”

Harshly judged, indeed. These massive mixed-use spaces take decades to plan and develop and will likely not be redeveloped within any of our lifetimes. Planning an entire neighborhood, especially one that can allow many possible iterations of the way we live, work, and play, demands a lot of responsibility. History will judge large mixed-use developments, but with enough forethought, they can just as easily be seen as the best way forward rather than something holding us back.

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