Mixed land use is a tenet of Smart Growth development that has a lot of virtues. But the name is boring and not very descriptive. Here’s Matt Yglesias describing what it’s like to live in a mixed-use D.C. neighborhood:

The building where I live turns out to be a really good place to pass a prolonged snow emergency. The complex includes a supermarket, a gym, a delicious sandwich place, and a coffee shop so you can easily meet all your key needs without leaving for days at a time. The downside is that I’m now realizing it’s been almost 48 hours since I’ve been off my block …

The “meet all your key needs” part is significant. I’ve seen a lot of Midwestern towns decide it’s time to revitalize their downtowns (after letting them empty out for a few decades). The downtowns usually manage to attract gift shops, restaurants, breweries, coffee shops—tourism and leisure spending stuff. Fewer of them have groceries, pharmacies, hardware stores, or daycare centers. Such necessities seem to more often require driving. Figuring out how to encourage them to locate in residential neighborhoods would do a lot of good.

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