Summer getaways featuring New Urbanism

Two articles in the "Escapes" section of Friday's New York Times highlight beach resorts where New Urbanism is credited with helping to create less hectic, less car dependent places.

Jim Atkinson, "Mexico’s New Frontier":

If the vision of the Mexican government and an American developer is realized, a decade from now Loreto Bay will include 6,000 homes, from small condos to 3,800-square-foot custom houses, most of them probably to be owned by American retirees or part-time residents. They will be formed into six groups called villages, themselves made up of clusters of five and six homes, each with its own small communal green space.

In the best tradition of the new urbanism, residents will travel about their villages on foot, by bicycle or in electric-powered golf carts, moving over flagstone streets purposely made too narrow for automobiles. They will have three golf courses, beach and tennis clubs and a marina at their disposal, with whale watching and other eco-tourism just a boat ride away. And everything will be built to the highest standards of environmental sustainability. The master plan includes not only solar-heated hot water, but a seawater desalination plant and a 500-acre wind farm.

The goals are so monumentally ambitious that it’s impossible not to ask whether it can even work. But some buyers are not waiting for a consensus. They’re grabbing Loreto Bay homes now.

Beth Greenfield, "On Florida’s Gulf Coast, the South Is Still the South":

Grayton Beach is reached by veering south off Route 98 at Inlet Beach to catch Scenic Route 30A, a 20-mile ribbon laced with upscale hamlets like Rosemary Beach and Blue Mountain Beach. Among them is Seaside, created in the early 1980s as one of the country’s first New Urbanist developments. It was used as the surreal backdrop for the 1998 film “The Truman Show,” and it does look like a film set, or a theme-park village, with its codified, pastel-colored houses set behind white picket fences and along immaculate brick-paved streets. A newly remodeled inn with a grand porch has perfect rooms (some gingham-carpeted) designed by the luggage maker Vera Bradley.

On a recent sunny afternoon, visitors lolled on the lawn of the Seaside green, browsed in its art galleries and flocked to its sugar-sand beach for sunset. At nightfall, a crew of warm, down-to-earth residents gathered for a potluck party at the local shop Sundog Books.

Americans sick of the suburbs' crushing traffic and soulless anomie have long sought solace in small-town environments, from Tuscan hill towns to Disney World's Main Street, USA. It's an encouraging sign that people want the New Urbanism, and furthermore that large corporate investors (particularly Citigroup, the majority investor at Loreto Bay, and Intrawest, the ski-resort magnate that manages Seaside's cottage-rental operation) have found that town-building to be not only a worthy endeavor, but indeed very profitable.

Others question whether a resort, particularly one that targets a market which can afford to leave a home empty for most of the year, can truly be sustainable, either environmentally or socially. Indeed, a surprising number of the projects submitted for the pilot phase of LEED-ND certification -- to be certified as "green" neighborhood developments -- are intended to be seasonal resorts. While it's great for people to live in New Urbanist neighborhoods for their annual two-week vacation, I think it might be preferable to have them live in New Urbanism for the other fifty weeks of the year. What say you?


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