One of the highlights of our road trip through the south was to be a visit to Seaside, Florida, one of the first examples of New Urbanism. Planned by Miami architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Seaside was to be a recreation of the traditional main street town.
After reading several of James Howard Kunstler’s books, we believe that reviving the main street town through multi use zoning, planned public space, narrow tree-lined streets, and alleys is a necessity. The suburbs are unsustainable, ugly and demoralizing. They demand constant automobile use, isolating the community from itself.
When we lived in Berthoud, Colorado we enjoyed all the benefits a traditional main street town has to offer. We walked everywhere down tree lined streets, saying hello to our friends and neighbors. We only drove if we wanted to leave town. We had a sense of place.
They don’t make towns like this anymore. Or do they? We borrowed two bikes this morning and rode them the two miles to Seaside to see an example of New Urbanism. I’m sorry to report that it was a disappointment.
Although the bike path was heavily populated by bikers, joggers, and dog walkers, in town there were more cars than people. There were not sidewalks on every street. There were no alleys. The grocery store was not adequately stocked for running a household. And there were not many people out and about.
Sure, there were a lot of people gathering for a wine festival. Tickets were $90 and the delivery truck was parked across the sidewalks. We got a sense that this community was really just a collection of vacation cottages for rich white folks and that no one actually lived there. Not even the darker skinned workers we saw pulling things together behind the scenes.
The last straw was this sign:
SEASIDE PRIVATE BEACH ACCESS Due to the fragile nature of the dune system, Beach access must be restricted to Seaside Owners and Guests.