Back to the Future: The Ancient Wisdom of Live/Work Units

December 9, 2022

A tale as old as time

While "live/work" units might sound buzzy and futuristic, the concept is ancient. For most of civilization, many people have lived and worked on the same property. People of all occupations across the globe have resided and labored in hybrid spaces. From Japan’s Machiya to Paris’ "top-shops" to American main streets and farms, the historical and geographical examples are abundant. Historians trace the global shift away from live/work units to the Industrial Revolution, changes in transportation policy, and the rise of single-use zoning. By the 1950s, live/work units in the United States were mainly against the law or highly discouraged.

But times are changing once again, and this hybrid way of working and living is on the rise – with urgent reasons and many benefits to individuals and communities alike catalyzing this live/work renaissance.

The necessity and benefits of live/work units

We need a revival of live/work spaces to meet society’s changing norms. Between the desirability of living in walkable, urban areas and working from home, demand for live/work units will continue to grow. Many people want to live vibrant local lives where they reside and work in the same space. The rise of remote and hybrid work has increased the demand for flexible spaces that meet peoples’ diverse personal and professional lifestyles and needs. With the rise of entrepreneurship, small businesses need more affordable, accessible venues to launch their businesses and side hustles while minimizing risk and overhead – such as pursuing their professional and personal dreams, where they also literally dream each night.

The collective benefits of live/work spaces are just as compelling and urgent as the individual needs. Live/work units are inherently great for mobility as fewer private cars on the road to work mean less pollution and more room for bikers and other mobility users. Similarly, live/work units are great for communities by activating local streets and neighborhoods: more people living, working, shopping, connecting, and moving all day long. Gathering unique and specialized small businesses and makers in a single residential neighborhood deepens a sense of community in more ways than one. These businesses not only activate the individual live/work units, but also the areas around them, from plaza-facing patios to local community events.

Whether you’re looking for a studio to make art or music, teach yoga or dance, fix bikes or 3D printers, edit that podcast or novel, or assemble merch boxes for your DTC business, live/work units provide flexibility and two uses behind the same front door. Last but certainly not least, live/work units are great for open space by utilizing limited urban land more efficiently, opening up possibilities for better land uses. Together, more people and small businesses, fewer cars and less traffic, and more open space and amenities mean livelier streets for all!

Introducing live/work at Culdesac

From their efficient use of land to their myriad benefits, it will come as no surprise that Culdesac plans to offer live/work units at Culdesac’s flagship property, Culdesac Tempe. We want to deliver someplace better through community, mobility, and open space – and the flexible nature of live/work units helps us deliver this vision. In fact, we’ve heard from many prospective residents that they’re interested in leasing live/work units in particular – whether to support their side hustle or to launch or scale their small business. We want to support them – and they will help activate their local communities and open spaces, support surrounding small businesses, and help reduce traffic and congestion. Win/win for everyone!

So whether you’re dreaming of:

  • Opening your DIY paint studio, florist, or webshop side hustle…
  • Starting your business without worrying about office overhead…
  • Looking forward to seeing more neighbors out and about during the day and night…
  • Supporting local small businesses where you live…
  • Appreciating fewer unnecessary private vehicles on the road during your commute to the office…

Live/work units can benefit everyone and provide people with choices to help them live their best lives by enhancing community, mobility, and open space.