One the fastest growing trends in real estate development is the mixed-use building. These high rises are combinations of retail, office, and living spaces, and their purpose to help create more walkable communities and reduce urban sprawl. Which is wonderful! But there are other trends that I love even more – the trailblazers below are renovating old buildings for new uses, making use of abandoned lots, and even growing forests in the middle of large cities. As they make a difference in their communities, they also challenge how we address urban development. Take a look.

Parisian Ghost Stations to See New Life

For over 50 years, portions of Paris’ metro have gone unused. Some were shut down during the Nazi occupation of World War II, some were never opened to the public at all. But if mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has anything to say about it, these abandoned stations could be transformed into performance spaces, restaurants, and even a swimming pool! I love the idea of transforming these unused spaces. Paris is beautiful, but already crowded – a project that utilized existing spaces rather than breaking new ground could solve several problems at once. The Smithsonian website has some lovely renderings of potential uses for the space, go take a look!

Abandoned Lots Feed Their Community

Abandoned lots in urban areas are more than an eyesore – they’re directly correlated with the safety of a neighborhood as well as sense of community. That is, the presence of abandoned lots signals lower safety and community spirit. But especially during a recession, development projects can be hard to come by. That’s why organizations like City Growers are so important. They saw the abandoned lots and thought of a solution – community gardens. All over the country, organizations are doing similar work – Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New Orleans have all seen their numbers of community gardens rise. And why is this good? The organizations work within the community to transform the lots, building a sense of ownership and responsibility in the residents. The food also goes to the community, helping people in food deserts gain access to fresh produce. Win-win!

Vertical Forests are the Skyscrapers of the Future

The first time you see an artist’s rendering, the Bosco Verticale looks like an impossible construction. Whoever heard of a forest built on a high-rise apartment building? Despite the naysayers, the two buildings are nearing completion, and will be ready for inhabitants in late spring or summer of this year. Each building has the capacity to hold the equivalent of 10,000 square meters of forest, and is equipped with photovoltaic panels and greywater recycling. Plus, residents will be able to live in an urban area while experiencing the benefits of forest life. Imagine if every building provided those benefits? Urban heat islands and air pollution could be a thing of the past.

Micro Homes Provide Cozy Living and a Small Footprint

The trend for the past 15 years or so has been that of the “McMansion” – large single-family homes squeezed onto plots that seem too small for them, often sacrificing yard space and privacy for sheer size. Now that trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction. “Micro” homes are tiny, often-mobile homes whose square footage is less than 200 feet. They make up for their lack of space with clever layouts and affordable pricing, and have been called the potential solution to the housing shortage. Plus, they’re adorable!

So what development trends are you most excited about?

Image Credit: Chris Tack