January 19, 2012

The Idea of New Urbanism

Our route today took us along the Gulf of Mexico, from the Forgotten Coast of Florida to the Emerald Coast.  The water was visible for quite a bit of the way, and it was a beautiful drive. Not that I’m a beach person, but the beaches along the Gulf are known for their powdery white sand.  They really are quite lovely.

We passed funky beach towns along the way, and stopped in Apalachicola, where we talked with a man who was walking his cat near the waterfront.  Tim happened to see him and couldn’t resist stopping and letting Kitty out for a visit.  Too bad she wasn’t a bit more friendly.

After leaving Panama City Beach, we turned onto County Road 30A, which is home to several beach communities that are distinctly different from other towns along the coast. Rosemary Beach was the first town we happened upon, but it was Seaside that I really wanted Tim to see.

The Natural Dunes Are Preserved Along the Beach at Seaside
Seaside was the first town developed on the principles of New Urbanism, an urban design movement that promotes walkable communities with a town center and a variety of housing types.  It’s hard for me to believe that Seaside is celebrating its thirtieth birthday this year.  Although Seaside certainly has its critics, I have always loved the town and its pedestrian-friendly design.  I remember the town when only a few of the blocks had been built out. Today, there is hardly a vacant lot, and the natural vegetation has fully developed.

Seaside Town Center
Pedestrian-Friendly Community
A Variety of Housing Types
I love the quality of the architecture in Seaside and enjoy seeing how creative architects have been in interpreting the town’s urban code.  Architectural style is not dictated here, only form-based elements like height, setback, parking, porches, etc.  My favorite elements in town are the towers on the rooftops of many of the houses; the picket fences, no two of which are alike; the welcoming front porches; the soothing pastel colors; and the fanciful pavilions at the end of each street that create gateways to the beach.

Rooftop Towers Dot the Skyline
Towers From Which to See the Sea
Porches and Towers

Picket Fences Enclose Front Yards
Front Porches Are Friendly
Coleman Pavilion Marks an Entrance to the Beach
Tim was unfamiliar with the concept of New Urbanism before today, but he has pointed out that the ideas espoused here are just what we may be looking for in a place to settle in after he retires.  That’s one of the themes of this trip – to take a look at communities that may be the perfect fit for us down the road.  No, the town won’t be Seaside, but it was good to visit a community where traditional neighborhood principles have been applied.  

The Seaside Post Office, Everyone's Favorite Building
After a leisurely stroll through Seaside, we drove a few miles down the road and settled into a campground at another of Florida’s lovely state parks.  This time it’s Grayton Beach State Park, a beautiful beach with coastal dunes that lead to the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


  1. I have heard about this place. It's beautiful. I could certainly see myself sitting on one of those front porches sipping a gin and tonic and breathing the salt air! :-) LV

  2. LV, If you make mine a vodka and tonic, I'll join you! Another wonderful place to enjoy a cocktail is in one of the towers. Many of them have views of the Gulf. Sarah