Mixed Use

Good practice for creating mixed-use neighbourhoods
The creation of compact mixed-use neighbourhoods with a diverse mix of employment, education, retail, fresh and healthy food outlets and recreation land uses and destinations integrated with public transport and within close proximity of a variety of residential dwelling types allows residents to undertake and fulfil a variety of daily activities and needs (i.e., live, work, play) in their neighbourhood and encourages active and sustainable modes of transport.

  • Mixed Use Diagram
  1. A healthy active neighbourhood is provided with a good distribution of public open space.
  2. Providing a number of mixed use destinations dispersed across the neighbourhood supports improved walking.
  3. A range of land uses serviced by public transport provides equitable access to facilities.
  4. Local centres accessed by interconnected paths can provide for the day to day needs of the local community.
  5. Specialised research and education centres can be a location of commerce, culture, arts, entertainment and innovation.
  6. District centres serviced by public transport are important for a local identify and are a source of local employment.

What do we mean by "mixed-use"?

In general, the term ‘mixed-use’ refers to the existence of a variety of different land uses (or destinations) within the same location – whether that is a project area, precinct, locality, site or building.   A variety of land uses may be co-located side by side along a street or one above the other, such as shops at ground level with residential development above. The term ‘mixed-use development’ refers to buildings that contain a mix of uses – such as commercial, retail or other non-residential uses, maintaining an active commercial and business environment at pedestrian (street) level often in conjunction with residential dwellings on the upper levels in a multiple dwelling configuration. [1, 2]

The term ‘land use’ describes land that has been zoned for specific purposes; these include residential, retail, commercial, civic, open space, or mixed-use within a town planning scheme.  ‘Destinations’ refer to the specific types of businesses present (e.g, a supermarket, hotel, cinema or bank).  

The term “land use mix” is often used throughout the public health literature to describe the diversity (i.e., mix) of different land uses or destinations over a given area, (i.e., within the neighbourhood). [2] Measures of ‘land use mix’ are often computed in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and include simple counts of different destination types or land uses present, as well as more sophisticated methods such as entropy formulas that measure the variety and distribution of land uses over a given area. [3, 4]

Why is mixed-use important for physical activity and health? 

The location of different land uses relative to one another has a strong impact on how people travel between and to/from these. [5]  The location of key employment, education, retail and recreation land uses close to homes is a key design feature of ‘walkable’ and sustainable neighbourhood design to encourage active transport.  Areas with a greater mix of co-located, complementary, land uses or destinations allow for multiple activities to be undertaken and different daily needs (i.e., live, work, play) to be met in the one location.  Neighbourhoods with a mix of co-located destinations (for example at a neighbourhood or town centre) are also more conducive for walking and cycling as they provide local focal points for people to meaningfully and conveniently walk or cycle to within their neighbourhood. [6] The inclusion of fresh food outlets in the mix of neighbourhood destinations is also important to provide residents with easy access to fresh foods and to assist them in adopting healthy eating behaviours.  

The provision of mixed-use neighbourhood and town centres within walking distance from homes also makes alternative forms of transport such as walking, cycling or public transport use more viable and provides people with the option not to use the car.  In addition to the health benefits associated with walking and cycling, this assists in reducing the use of the car for local trips – an established known producer of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The presence of mixed-use buildings with ‘active’ ground floor uses and those that extend onto the street (i.e., café seating areas) fosters natural surveillance and feelings of safety and help to create a vibrant streetscape and mixed-use neighborhood centres.  Additionally, the presence of a mix of destinations and/or mixed-use buildings that facilitate a variety of uses and generate activity at different periods of the day and night is important for creating vibrant, inviting and safe neighbourhood and town mixed-used areas / centres.

Ensuring neighbourhoods have access to a mix of shops, services and transport connections have positive implications beyond physical activity.[7]  The provision of a mix of destinations and community facilities within the neighbourhood helps to attract a range of people of all ages and provides opportunities for casual and chance interactions with other members of the community as well as providing places and spaces for people of all ages to gather, meet friends and family and engage in social activities. [8, 9]   Mixed-use planning and the presence of a variety of destinations also promotes walking which in turn increases the sense of community or social capital through the facilitation of interaction between residents on the streets. [8] 

However, post-war suburban development, with its segregated retail and commercial land uses, has resulted in the development of isolated residential suburbs. [10, 11]  The increased distances as a result of this segregation of land uses makes it impractical for residents to walk or cycle to these destinations as part of their daily routine. [10, 12]


Summary of evidence

For a more detailed overview of the evidence supporting the benefits of creating mixed-use neighbourhoods for physical activity and health click here

Living within close proximity (400-800m) of a mix of destinations is associated with higher levels of active transport across all age groups.

[13-18-20, 27, 30-33]             

Locating schools near residential areas also provides opportunities for students to walk to school and promotes daily physical activity among children and youth.

[31, 32, 52]

Good access to recreational facilities is associated with physical activity among children, adolescents, adults and older adults.   

[15, 27, 53-60]

Increased fruit and vegetable intakes, healthier diet and better diet quality and lower BMI and weight status are associated with increased access to supermarkets, and living in closer proximity to supermarkets and increased density of supermarkets within the neighbourhood. 


Greater access to takeaway or fast food outlets is associated with decreased fruit and vegetable intake, increased consumption of sugary beverages and higher BMI and weight status.


There  is consistent evidence that the combination of higher residential densities and mixed land uses are positively associated with adults and older adults walking.


Neighbourhood ‘walkability’ (a combination of residential density, mixed-use planning and street connectivity) is consistently associated with walking for transport and general walking.

[4, 19, 72-76]                                                                             

Neighbourhoods that promote interaction between residents, via more walkable, mixed-use planning, and sport and recreation facilities tend to have higher stocks of social capital and sense of community.

[8, 61-63]