The design of retail strata in mixed use developments has historically been somewhat of an afterthought for developers. This mentality lead to the creation of logistically challenging spaces that were difficult to lease and/or sell. Fortunately, with increased demand and the value of retail units being realized, developers have now begun allocating more attention to the proper design of the units from the outset. When intentionally planned, the design of retail strata should begin years in advance of bringing a project to market and there are a number of design items that help attract strong tenancies and secure top value. The following three considerations are key to the successful design of retail strata units in a mixed use development:

1008 Pandora Avenue  |  Victoria, BC

  1. Size

    Due to current values (sale or lease) tied to retail units, most owner/users, investors, and tenants are looking for efficient layouts flush with usable space and ample street front presence in order to keep total costs down and maximize exposure. Most sizing issues arise when the units are designed with excessive depth which can lead to demising issues. Tenants typically want to keep a minimum of 18-20 ft frontage for an average 1,000 square foot unit.  Planning for shallow units allows for maximum frontage and the ability to demise units as the demand sees fit. It is much easier to combine units, as opposed to demising them down the road. Not to mention, it can be extremely costly to split services and add access/egress points.

    Photo of mixed-use retail with street frontage

    Town Centre 2 at River District  |  Vancouver, BC

  2. Ventilation

    In a time when retail uses are continually evolving with notable entrants and exits due to online influences, restaurants continue to be a consistent presence and a vital component of any tenant mix in both mixed use buildings and/or shopping centers. Due to residential lobbies, balconies, and service corridors, adding kitchen ventilation to a unit once your plans are in place can be extremely difficult and costly. The solution, then, is to plan for this ventilation well in advance of residential sales. Building out to a loading area can be the easiest option but depending on the municipality you are dealing with and the location of balconies in the residential component above, there can be roadblocks. Often times the preferred ventilation for end users is having a shaft from the unit directly to the roof of the project. As you can imagine, once residential sales are in place there is next to no ability to augment floor plans. Reaching out to industry professionals and learning their minimum requirements in the early stages will save plenty of headaches later on.

    People in busy restaurant

  3. Parking & Access

    Depending on the intended retail use, a city/municipality will have minimum parking requirements. Research the area you are in as well as the type of tenants that could “fit” the project and then be sure to support the minimum parking requirements. Uses such as medical services, dental practices, and fitness concepts comprise a very active segment of tenants who all have large parking requirements, that if not satisfied, will struggle to secure the necessary permits and licenses to operate. These potential issues can be avoided by consulting with city officials and engaging brokers early in the process.

As the saying goes: by failing to prepare you prepare to fail. This is especially true when looking through the lens of retail strata design. At the end of the day, attention to detail at the beginning of a project will go a long way toward attracting the best tenancies, optimizing value, and ultimately saving developers a lot of time and money.  

For more information, contact Michael Heck at 604 398 4379 or