The Benefits of Retail Space in Mixed-Use Buildings

Our latest development to break ground, Optima Lakeview, is a mixed-use building that’s bringing in-demand and exciting retail space to the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Combining residential and retail into one building (earning the name “mixed-use”) is a time-old way to reap benefits for both residents and businesses alike. So what exactly are those benefits? 

Understanding Mixed-Use Buildings

For starters, let’s define what a mixed-use building is. A mixed-use building (MXD) is a building with three or more significantly-sized, revenue-producing businesses, whether those businesses are offices, retail stores, restaurants or other hospitality locales. The purpose of MXDs is to maximize the efficiency and value of a limited space, especially in urban areas, where space is in high demand. 

In addition to the underway Optima Lakeview, many other Optima projects are also mixed-use buildings. Optima Signature, our luxury condo community in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, features retail tenants such as Bedazzled Nail Salon, GoodVets Veterinarian Office, Egg Harbor Cafe, Guidepost Montessori School, Runaway Fitness and an interior connection to the Whole Foods nextdoor. 

Retail-space-filled plaza at Optima Signature
Retail-filled plaza at Optima Signature

Benefits of Retail Space 

Introducing mixed-use buildings into a neighborhood means retail space is closer than ever to residential. For residents, this translates into a more pedestrian-friendly experience: their needs are accessible and within walking distance. For the environment, increased walkability also means less pollution from transportation. And for business-owners, their storefronts gain increased exposure as people stroll by, leading to increased sales and success. Overall, mixed-use buildings lead to a stronger sense of community and better quality of life for both residents and businesses. 

At Optima, we make the most of our retail space by thoughtfully hand-selecting each business. Retail space in our residential buildings is yet another amenity that serves to enhance the lives not just of our own residents, but of the surrounding community, too.

Our Beliefs: Lasting Impact

As part of our culture at Optima, our team is aligned around a set of beliefs that provides unity, clarity and meaning to the work we do everyday. One belief — committed to lasting impact — addresses our dedication to design solutions that raise the bar, withstanding the aesthetic test of time to leave a positive, lasting impact on people and the built environment that surrounds them.

From our earliest days, we have approached our work with this mindset. Our first project was in 1978 — a condominium complex at South Kenwood Avenue and East 54th Street in Hyde Park. We acquired the in-fill property at auction, and built six townhouses using Chicago common brick (they are still standing and occupied today). This project established a throughline that stays with us to this day, as we continue to pursue each project with the same intention, inspired by the people who live in and around them. 

Interior of South Kenwood and East 54th Street
Interior of South Kenwood and East 54th Street

As a natural outgrowth of our focus on people and the places they inhabit, we pay particular attention to how interior space is designed and experienced. Whether it’s our multi-family residences or single family homes, each is outfitted with a multitude of amenities, outdoor spaces and thoughtful design. We also deliberately curate the commercial spaces within our multi-family properties to benefit our residents, tailoring the selection of retailers to include restaurants & juice bars, schools, veterinary services or health & wellness spaces that align with the mix of residents and their needs. 

Our passion for buildings that last also translates into how our projects impact our earth. From LEED and IgCC certifications to conscious materials, we design with eco friendly functionality in mind. In building Relic Rock, we utilized design and materials to reduce the need for electricity and heat, lowering the building’s environmental burden. As we continue to grow in our practices, we will continue to implement more conscious design to ensure that our buildings work harmoniously with the surrounding nature.

Courtyard Fountain “Cooling Tower” at Relic Rock.
Courtyard Fountain “Cooling Tower” at Relic Rock.

Through each project and with each detail large or small, we strive to improve our communities and the lives of our residents for years to come. Stay tuned for more features on our beliefs as we dive deeper on what makes Optima function and thrive.

A Close Look at the Curtain Wall

As a design-driven real estate development firm, our Modernist roots shine in each one of our projects. A staple of classic Modernist design, we often employ glass curtain walls to create stunningly transparent and sleek exteriors. In respect to the tradition and technique, we’re diving deep into the history of the curtain wall and its impact on our structures today.

The curtain wall at Optima Signature
The curtain wall at Optima Signature

The Curtain Wall Defined

A curtain wall is a nonstructural exterior component of a building, at first serving the mere purpose of keeping weather out and occupants in. Being nonstructural, curtain walls are often made of lightweight materials such as glass, metal panels or thin stone. Glass curtain walls have the added benefit of introducing deeply penetrating natural light into a building, and can offer broad, sweeping views, creating seamless cohesion between the built environment and its natural surroundings. 

Because curtain walls are nonstructural components, load-bearing responsibilities fall on the shoulders of strong metal frames. The invention of the curtain wall was in fact made possible by the growth of the iron and steel industry, when these strong metal materials were made more readily available and affordable to the mass market in the late 18th century. 

The first Modernist building, The Crystal Palace, was built during this time. Shortly after The Crystal Palace, Modernist master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe pioneered the contemporary steel-and-glass aesthetic that defined an era and way of designing, coining the name for the style: “skin-and-bones architecture.” Today, designing minimalistic, functional building frames in steel and glass, and employing curtain walls to do so, continues to be a signature mark of Modernist structures.

The curtain wall at Optima Old Orchard Woods
The curtain wall at Optima Old Orchard Woods

Adding Beauty and Sustainability

As a building material, glass has evolved considerably over the years. Our capability to utilize glass in curtain wall systems connects indoors and outdoors, and promises a beautiful environment, with an abundance of natural sunlight and impressive views. Outside of aesthetic, glass curtain walls also serve the functionality of increased performance in temperature moderation, moisture protection and improved acoustics. 

In our own projects, we utilize Low-E UV protected laminated glass with a heat reflective coating, which contributes to a regulated indoor environment, particularly in the harsh Arizona climate, and provides added sustainability, decreasing energy need for additional heating and cooling control.

As we continue to explore the integration of the built and the natural environment, we appreciate the curtain wall for its transparency and sustainability, and the wonder that it adds to exceptional Modernist design.


Optimized Service at Optima

With everything we do at Optima, we set out to deepen the human experience. In support of this mission, this year we launched Optimized Service, an innovative in-home concierge program that is the first of its kind in Arizona. 

Optimized Service takes concierge services to the next level, providing conveniences for our residents within the comfort of their homes, with our professional in-house teams working around the clock. Complimentary services include dry cleaning pickup and delivery to the closet, in-home plant watering, thermostat adjustments and package delivery to your front door within 24 hours of package delivery to the building. 

The program augments the virtual concierge at Optima, which offers our residents the ability to call, email or text for assistance with booking reservations, appointments, coordinating travel and other similar tasks. 

We see our new hospitality-grade service as the perfect addition to the abundant amenities offered across all of our Arizona luxury rental communities. In our continuous pursuit of service, we seek to provide our residents with an unparalleled living experience. 

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