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New urbanism, seaside
Credit: Visit Florida

Even the British Like Fla.’s ‘New Urbanist’ Towns

Three cities designed for walkability – including Seaside used in “The Truman Show” movie – caught Prince Charles’ eye and have sister-cities developed in the U.K.

LONDON – Forty years ago, Miami architecture firm DPZ began developing three developments called Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach. Located on the Emerald Coast of the Florida Panhandle, the idyllic neighborhoods feature “new urbanist” planning, which is built on the principle that homeowners should be able to walk to a shop instead of having to use a car.

The neighborhoods are densely packed and feature environmentally friendly features including native vegetation, cobbled or sloped streets to create natural drainage, and, in the case of Alys, hurricane-proof houses with bulletproof windows and thick walls.

Designer and DPZ founder Andres Duany says his goal is to make sure the town is “harmonious,” and he dismisses criticisms of his architecture by pointing to its massive popularity.

Seaside Community Realty agent Jacqueline Barker notes that there is a 20% premium on properties in Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach compared to homes nearby, and only 15% of the homes’ owners live there full-time, with many renting out the properties for high prices. Seaside was used for the movie “The Truman Show” starring Jim Carrey.

Duany is unrepentant about gentrification, claiming the towns have been a boon to the local economy and that “urbanism distributes wealth,” although he has recently turned his attention to developing affordable housing units for service workers. Parking is a problem in Seaside, and most people work elsewhere and have to commute by car to reach the towns, so they are not pure eco-towns.

Duany believes he has won the argument for new urbanism, and his Florida communities have been highly influential, with 4,000 new urbanist communities in the works across the country.

Prince Charles of the United Kingdom has displayed an interest in Duany’s work, hiring him in 1993 to help plan a similar project in Britain called Poundbury, and Duany currently is working on three new urbanist projects in the U.K.

Source: The Times (London) (01/26/20) Graham, Hugh

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