Business in My Front Yard

Mixing Middle Design Competition Entry (2021)

Project Partner: Elkplan Design (Urban Design & Illustrations)

Our entry for the Urbanarium’s Mixing Middle design competition, entitled ‘Business in My Front Yard’ (BIMFY), proposes a new way think about under-densified single-family neighbourhoods by permitting retail and commercial use in these typically residential-only areas.

Residents can now build ‘tiny towers’ up to five storeys on their property that support additional uses like cafes or bistros, fitness activities, child care, retail, office space, and artist studios. This idea celebrates mixed use as a way to increase vibrancy, social connection, and affordability for all, while maintaining a low barrier to implementation and supporting community-driven initiatives as a way to transform our urban spaces.

Urban Magnets


Design of public and private spaces should promote multiple aspects of life including: making, learning, celebrating, and participating in local, small-scale economic activities.

Allowing for a collision of these core human activities within adaptively designed environments promotes sub-communities and unique shared urban experiences.

Successfully designed urban places include careful design of the social and mercantile aspects of the environment.

Bumping into folks increases understanding and acceptance of others


Democratizing as much space as possible in dense urban environments creates societies of mixed-views, mixed-cultures, and shared community. Increasing the density of housing, shopping, recreating and working in mixed, shared environments, lowers crime and promotes tolerance and mutual experiences. Increased walkability to multiple activities is a critical design component.

The public realm is under your feet


The street. A laneway. A cut-through pathway. Where you are standing, walking or sitting is an opportunity for community.

Music, laughter, art, dance, feasts, and protests are the experiences of great places. Great design promotes freedom and vitality in the public realm.

The space between the door and the street is sacred

(there should always be a door)


Transitional space from public to private sends key cognitive signals about human habitation, the individual, and the community and cultivates healthy protected neighbourhoods.

Subtle design attributes matter; A few steps. Private space that has overlook. Opportunities for ownership and pride. An appropriate distance.