Why mixed-use property is the future of development

‘People make places’. This is the driving force for a growing number of developers who are putting people, and particularly community, at the heart of what they do. Factors such as good design or a convenient location alone are no longer enough, leading to a growing trend in mixed-use developments. Mixed-use developments combine both commercial and residential aspects. In short, they allow people to live, work and play in a concentrated area, writes Founder of Blackswan Property, Marcus Hawley.

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Marcus Hawley

began his career as a Development Surveyor and Manager at Bruton Knowles and Urban Splash, working on key projects including Birmingham’s famous Rotunda. In 2009, he founded Blackswan Property, a Birmingham-based property developer, which started by giving development advice to local authorities, housing associations and property investors. In 2015, the company transitioned into a developer, focusing on PRS and mixed-use developments.



“There is a growing appetite for places that have it all. Millennials are the core target market for mixed-use developments... Mixed-use properties are the most effective way of achieving this millennial mecca and attracting ‘generation rent’.”
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There is a growing appetite for places that have it all. Millennials are the core target market for mixed-use developments. Property experts claim that this generation wants to live in dense urban areas, that they prioritise convenience above all and that they ideally want to travel on foot rather than by car. For developers, mixed-use properties are the most effective way of achieving this millennial mecca and attracting ‘generation rent’.

Another big factor for this generation when choosing their base is community. In 2018, a joint study carried out by BBC Radio 4 and the Wellcome Collection found that young people were the most likely group in the UK to experience loneliness. A recent YouGov survey backed this up, revealing that 30% of millennials say they always or often feel lonely. Many mixed-use developments incorporate amenities that encourage community, such as co-working spaces and gyms.

Blackswan Property’s proposed community living space, Bradford Works in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, is aiming to do just that. The first community living space in Birmingham, the proposed mixed-use development aims to address the challenge of urban loneliness, as well as offering an affordable and convenient place to live. Bradford Works will incorporate living space with a communal makerspace geared towards jewellery-making, a nod to the heritage and still thriving industry of the Jewellery Quarter. Other amenities include a fitness room, communal kitchen, lounge and dining area, and a games and entertainment room.

A change in consumer behaviour

Mixed-use developments are also a response to a change in consumer behaviour. With the rise of convenience culture, physical retailers are suffering and struggling to attract younger shoppers through their doors. With many mixed-use developments bringing retail and residential together, or retail and office space together, the choice to shop locally is placed right on people’s doorstep. Mixed-use retail tenants generally benefit from the recurring spend of local residents who are more likely to visit mixed-use properties more often than they would visit a single standalone store.

More developments are being built in areas that already see heavy footfall – it makes sense to capitalise on this footfall and create additional retail space, rather than purely residential. This is a core part of Blackswan’s plans for development in Birmingham. Our Hockley Mills site will create nearly 400 apartments with landscaped courtyards, and commercial space including offices, independent retail units and workshops intended for jewellery design and manufacture.

It’s really important to Blackswan that we’re creating destinations which both attract new communities and support existing ones, and mixed-use developments allow us to deliver exactly that. After all, people make places, so let’s make our places about people.

As an innovative and highly professional development business, Blackswan Property exists in order to create unique buildings and spaces in and around Birmingham. The mixed-use developer has a huge passion for heritage and regeneration projects, with a focus on every development creating a legacy for future generations. Blackswan Property strives to be as attentive to each detail at every stage; from research into sites and opportunities, through to design and specification, it is a passionate and professional developer proud of the innovative and aspirational projects they’re involved in.

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