How New Urbanist Communities Have Influenced Scenic 30A, Florida
by Jamie Conley
on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 at 2:45pm.
Generations of families have created memories, traditions and fun along the beaches of Scenic 30A but it hasn’t always been the ultra-vibrant, buzzing area that most know today. In the early 80’s the coastline was sparsely developed. Shops and restaurants who catered to visitors during busy spring and summer vacation months would “shutter” their businesses and close from Labor Day until the beginning of March. There weren’t enough visitors who knew about or were coming to South Walton to support employment and a year round economy during that time.
Neighborhood town centers infuse small town energy at the beach
In 1982 Seaside Florida founder, Robert Davis broke ground on what would become a model for development projects locally, nationally and world-wide. A new development style, known as Traditional Neighborhood Development (aka: TND’s) started the New Urbanism movement and has set the tone for other 30A beach communities. New Urbanism and one of its core values is based on the premise of creating community and a genuine, unique “sense of place” instead of building subdivisions or developments without a town center element. Communities that foster and support businesses, services, restaurants, shops, galleries and even; in Seaside’s case, a charter middle school, are more viable in the long term compared to subdivisions or tract home projects.
Some would even say that property values are stronger within TND’s compared to other types of residential projects. Ironically, located at the mid-point of Scenic 30A's eighteen mile road; Seaside has become a “center of attraction” drawing tourists and locals alike to an array of businesses, world-class restaurants, unique art galleries and special events. It’s safe to say that this 30A beachside town; along with its highly desirable homes have made a huge impact on South Walton real estate, economy and tourism.
A Rosemary Beach, FL success story for full time homeowners & visitors
Fast forward to 1995, and a 105-acre gulf front parcel covered in scrub oak and wild rosemary located at the eastern most point of Highway 30A. Leucadia Corporation, who were the original developers for Rosemary, were initially planning to build a “subdivision - tract home” project for their newly acquired property. A chance encounter in Seaside with our Davis Properties founder, Larry Davis, eventually ended in a total revamp for what Leucadia initially envisioned for their project.
Davis gave developers a tour of Seaside along with the history and philosophy of the “why's and how” the town was built. He assisted in making connections with Seaside’s town planner's Miami-based architects, Duany-Plater Zyberk. In the end, Davis was influential in persuading the developers that a change of plans towards a New Urbanist-style community would be a WIN-WIN for everyone. With architectural styles and influences from the West Indies, Charleston and New Orleans, the town’s exterior color pallets reflect hues found in the native environment. In the twenty years since inception, Rosemary has grown into a thriving, vibrant community for full-time residents, second home owners and visitors alike.
Architectural style gaining popularity along beaches of South Walton
In 2004 the newest, New Urban community to break ground along Scenic 30A – Alys Beach, Florida, was launched, showcasing a dramatically different architectural style from either of its local predecessors. Luxury residences designed in elegant Bermuda or Antigua-inspired architectural styles incorporate fortified building standards, stark white concrete exterior walls with colorful shutters, and intimate, private courtyards often feature small dipping pools.
While the commercial aspect of Alys Beach, FL is still in its infancy, this beachfront community with beautiful greens, lavish Caliza pool, a whimsical playground and beautiful wooded walking trails provide a glimpse into the authentic sense of place that’s on the horizon for the community. Alys Beach’s distinctive architectural style has definitely been an influential factor and is seen in luxury gulf front homes that have been built in recent years all along the South Walton coastline.
A unique, genuine community where business is open year round!
The New Urbanist communities found along Scenic Highway 30A have been a significant source of economic viability to the beaches of South Walton in recent years. Developers began to turn their project focus toward creating locales that offer a unique “sense of place”:
It set the standard for the whole community of South Walton that promotes the area apart as something truly exceptional! 30A property owners, residents and tourists have all been beneficiaries in one way or another of the New Urbanism movement that launched right here on Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast over 33 years ago. Unlike the 1980s, today the beaches of 30A are a thriving place to live, work, play and proudly display OPEN FOR BUSINESS signs year-round!