A Vertical Mixed Use (VMU) building has a store or office on the first floor, and a residence above. (Think of the recent live/work developments in our area like Sixth+Brush, Waterstreet Lofts, and Saltillo Lofts.)
The first floor must be "Pedestrian-Oriented Commercial Space." This means it must have a front door that opens to the sidewalk. The front room must be tall (12ft) and deep (24ft) and have large front windows. At least one upper floor must be a residence. Store below and office above does not count as mixed use.
The recently passed Commercial Design Standards provide strict new limits on the design and placement of development in our Neighborhood. Basically all new stores and offices will need to be built right up to the side walk. Parking will need to be located behind the building. (Think of the historic properties on E. Sixth). But these standards apply to all new non-residential development and not just VMU properties.
Remember VMU is a special designation the city has defined to provide developers special incentives to mix residential and commercial space. If a developer wants to build a mixed use project with an 11 foot ceiling on the first floor, that's fine, she just won't qualify for any incentives.
In addition to the physical characteristics of the project, developers interested in incentives must make sure that at least 10% of the housing is affordable. The affordability requirements range from 100%-60% of median family income. Again if the developer is not interested in incentives, she doesn't need to provide any affordability. This ordinace encourages affordability, it doesn't require it.
And even the lowest affordability targets offered are still more than twice the median family income of the ECC neighborhood.
In short, if a developer follows city rules to build a project with a store on the first floor and a residence above and she makes some of the housing affordable, she will qualify for incentives from the city.
Why would the city would want to do this? That's the topic of my next post.