Mixed-use Development

Update zoning codes and subdivision regulations to encourage mixed-use neighborhoods with higher density, pedestrian-friendly development, and common open space.


Mixed-use development encourages a number of different land uses within a development project rather than a single land use, so that everyday destinations are nearby and easier to access. For example, a development may include a mix of residential, commercial, and light manufacturing, allowing residents to walk to work and shopping.

The benefits of mixed-use development can be enhanced by other planning and policy efforts, particularly when there is a focus on the health of underserved communities or neighborhoods. Examples include restrictions on sprawl, siting new schools for walkability, or planning public infrastructure with access to recreation and nature. In suburban and rural locations, conservation subdivisions can allow higher density residential development while still protecting a large percentage of land for common open space, natural areas, trails, playgrounds, and parks.

Wisconsin Examples

Smart Growth America: Measuring Sprawl 2014 – Appleton, Wisconsin: In its Measuring Sprawl 2014 report, Smart Growth America highlights Appleton, Wisconsin as an example of a compact and connected small metropolitan area. Appleton has focused on walkable development, economic revitalization, historic preservation, and accessible transportation. The city encourages a mixed-use pattern of development in their downtown area.

Equity in Practice

Recognizing Inequity: Those living near mixed-use development areas are more likely to report increased physical activity, increased active transportation, and improved health outcomes. However, there is also a significant risk that changes to zoning regulations and development can create changes in community demographics and housing values that lead to displacement of low-income populations and communities of color.

Advancing Equity: Disparities may be reduced if mixed-use development occurs in diverse, underserved, or low-income communities and is accompanied by safeguards to ensure existing residents are not displaced. Development plans driven by existing residents are more likely to lower these risks.

Implementation Resources

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Center for Land Use Education: This Wisconsin office offers a number of general zoning resources, including those for understanding and implementing smart growth laws and different types of zoning ordinances in Wisconsin.

UW-Extension Sheboygan County: UW-Extension’s Growth Management Educator is available to work with local governments, organizations, community leaders, and citizens on planning and zoning development and implementation.

CDC Zoning for Physical Activity: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a page devoted to multiple valuable resources and case studies on zoning to encourage physical activity.

Urban Land Institute Building Healthy Places Toolkit: This toolkit serves as a resource for those seeking to shape buildings and neighborhoods in ways that enhance and promote health. The toolkit makes specific evidence-supported design and programming recommendations that relate to health, including mixed-use neighborhood strategies and designing neighborhoods for walking and biking.

Smart Growth in Small Towns and Rural Communities: This page from the Environmental Protection Agency offers resources, technical assistance, and examples of smart development for rural communities and small towns.

Assessment Tools

Active Living Research Rural Active Living Assessment Tool: This tool is specifically for rural, but could be used for urban/suburban neighborhoods or small communities. It includes a Town-wide Assessment, a Program and Policy Assessment, and a Street Segment Assessment. The street segment assessment looks at land use and walkability, which can be used to assess mixed-use development.

Smart Growth Self-Assessment for Rural Communities: The first section of this tool, Revitalize Village and Town Centers, contains mixed-use development-related questions. Section IV, Improve Health and Promote Active Living, contains some questions about residential zoning and open space.

Active Living Research PIN3 Neighborhood Audit instrument: This tool addresses various attributes of neighborhoods, including residential and non-residential land use, road characteristics, and walking and biking amenities.

Tribal Green Building Toolkit: This is a toolkit and assessment tool for Green Building codes, but it also has assessment questions and information on housing development. the toolkit is specific to tribal communities in the US.