By Lamar Wakefield, senior vice president, national practice leader for mixed-use, NELSON Worldwide
In recent years, urban landscapes across the globe have witnessed a transformation fueled by mixed-use development.
Cities are using sports and entertainment venues in particular as anchors for sizable mixed-use projects, creating vibrant destinations that not only attract crowds but also breathe new life into previously neglected urban areas. These developments have the power to serve as economic catalysts, creating new jobs, increasing foot traffic and generating tax revenue — and it all begins with great urban design.
Creating Fan & Cultural Hubs
A key element of these mixed-use developments is their ability to serve as hubs for fan and cultural activity.
Before and after the main events or games, these districts are central gathering places where people can live, work and play. The incorporation of multifamily, office, retail and recreational spaces fosters a sense of community, making the urban environment more dynamic and engaging. Likewise, these multifunctional spaces can be used year-round to host festivals, markets and social events. This infusion of cultural richness adds to the vibrancy of the urban environment, attracting a diverse range of residents and visitors.
In metro Atlanta, The Gathering at South Forsyth will be a premier example of mixed-use development that seamlessly integrates world-class entertainment into its fabric. Nestled in the heart of the northern suburb of Alpharetta, The Gathering will combine a state-of-the-art arena with residential buildings, offices, retail shops and food and beverage outlets. This dynamic blend will not only attract event attendees and concertgoers but also create a thriving community hub for both daytime activity and nightlife.
The Case for Urban Regeneration
Mixed-use developments have proven to be powerful economic drivers for cities. The influx of visitors for events generates substantial revenue for local businesses, including restaurants, hotels and retail establishments. Moreover, the continuous flow of people into the area creates job opportunities, contributing to overall economic growth and prosperity.
The Battery, adjacent to Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, exemplifies the economic potential of sports-anchored developments. The Battery boasts a myriad of restaurants, shops and entertainment options and draws crowds year-round. This activity has not only fueled the local economy but also created a destination that extends the impact of the ballpark far beyond game days.
Many cities have also strategically implemented mixed-use developments to revitalize deteriorating urban areas. By repurposing underutilized spaces or brownfields, these projects breathe new life into neglected neighborhoods. The infusion of modern architecture, cultural attractions and recreational spaces can act as a catalyst for wider urban regeneration, attracting investment and transforming the city’s overall aesthetic.
In Fayetteville, another suburb of Atlanta, Trilith LIVE presents a compelling case for suburban regeneration through mixed-use development. Originally a sprawling film studio complex, the development at Trilith Studios has evolved into a dynamic mixed-use community featuring Trilith LIVE, a film and television production campus alongside a luxury cinema, hotel and residences, dining, retail and recreational areas. This transformation has not only brought life to nearly seven acres of pasture but has also injected a creative and cultural energy into the surrounding landscape.
Improving Infrastructure & Access to Green Space
The development of sports and entertainment venues often necessitates improvements to urban infrastructure. This includes upgrades to public transportation, roadways and parking facilities. These enhancements not only benefit the immediate vicinity of the venue but also improve accessibility to the broader urban area, creating a more connected and efficient city.
As part of their developments, The Gathering, The Battery and Trilith LIVE also received enhanced infrastructures, such as connectivity to public transportation, thoughtful design of roadways and provision of ample parking facilities. All of these features contribute to a seamless urban-suburban experience. These improvements benefit the immediate vicinity of the venues and enhance the overall accessibility and mobility of the surrounding urban areas.
Modern mixed-use developments also emphasize sustainable and eco-friendly design principles. Integrating green space, pedestrian-friendly zones and energy-efficient buildings contributes to the overall sustainability of the urban landscape. This commitment to environmental consciousness improves the quality of life for residents and establishes the city as a forward-thinking, responsible community.
For example, The Gathering will feature curated open community parks, water features and walking trails along the 27-mile Big Creek Greenway. As such, the development prioritizes environmental responsibility while also contributing to the well-being of residents and visitors by providing aesthetically pleasing and sustainable environments.
The Gathering, The Battery and Trilith LIVE exemplify how mixed-use developments, particularly those anchored by sports and entertainment venues, can revitalize rural landscapes. These Atlanta-area districts demonstrate the power of creating cultural hubs, serving as economic catalysts, driving urban regeneration, enhancing infrastructure and incorporating sustainable design.
By embracing the lessons learned from these successful developments, cities around the world can unlock the full potential of their urban spaces, creating dynamic, connected and culturally rich environments for their residents and visitors.
About Lamar Wakefield
Lamar Wakefield, AIA, NCARB, NAIOP, is senior vice president and national practice leader for mixed-use at NELSON Worldwide. A 41-year industry veteran, Wakefield is renowned for nurturing quality relationships and bringing a people-centric emphasis to every aspect of NELSON’s architectural endeavors. Over the years, Wakefield has significantly contributed to noteworthy projects such as The Battery Atlanta, Twelve 24 in Dunwoody and Primerica Corporate headquarters in Duluth.