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Supporting mixed-use development on Cape Cod

A vibrant downtown often includes a mix of uses: residential, retail, restaurants, and other commercial businesses. Mixed-use development can provide opportunities for increased, compact housing in areas that are walkable, bikeable, and accessible to public transportation, and can help create new, or enhance existing, active areas.   

The Cape Cod Commission is developing strategies to maintain existing and encourage new compact, mixed-use development on Cape Cod. 

Through the Land Use Planning and Economic Resilience project, funded through a Planning Assistance Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Commission created a local typology of commercial and mixed-use developments in the region, looking at how each type fared in the face of pandemic-related impacts, and provided guidance to municipalities on fostering vibrant, thriving, and resilient mixed-use development.  

The project distinguished and provided local examples of eight commercial and mixed-use development types: neighborhood hub, village center, downtown, commercial strip plaza, large commercial plaza, commercial corridor, and enclosed mall. Site visits, analysis of cell phone visitation data, and interviews with relevant professionals helped provide an understanding of the ways various developments fared during the pandemic. This information was used to identify best practices for supporting successful and adaptable commercial and mixed-use developments.  Flexibility in the size of commercial spaces, and a mix of residential and active commercial uses were among the most important elements of a resilient commercial area. 

A new mixed-use model bylaw developed through the project could help support a range of mixed-use developments that could be appropriate in certain areas, ranging from small infill buildings to larger redevelopments of underutilized sites. The Commission worked with consultants Utile and Outwith Studio to create the model bylaw.  

Local policymakers can use the model bylaw as a starting point when considering their town’s needs and interests for mixed-use development. The bylaw offers a range of specifications depending on the context of the development and its location.  

By implementing the identified best practices Cape communities can help enhance cherished and historic vibrant downtowns or work to create new active neighborhoods in an environment that can allow businesses to adapt and be resilient to future economic shocks.   

The mixed-use model bylaw, accompanying guide, and the full report on the Cape Cod commercial and mixed-use typology can be found at    


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