The "New Urbanism" strikes again-

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JGropp
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The "New Urbanism" strikes again-

Postby JGropp » Wed May 06, 2009 3:44 pm

Trying Again on a Coast That Defies Big Dreams
Published 5/27/2008
William Yardley
The New York Times

PACIFIC BEACH, Wash. - Big Bold Dream No. 1 arrived on the cloudy coast of Washington State in 1905. It was called the Moclips Beach Hotel, 270 grand rooms at its peak, with a railroad depot and waves crashing beyond the veranda. Then the ocean washed it all away.

Half a century later came Big Bold Dream No. 2: Ocean Shores. Thousands of lots sold, many at $600 each, sight unseen. Pat Boone moved to town and hosted celebrity golf tournaments. Now? Ocean Sores, some call it, strip malls and sprawl. Beloved by some, but the Malibu of the Pacific Northwest it is not.

And so, on the clear and sunny Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when summer unofficially began on beaches across the country, there was David Hughes, getting lost as he tried to deliver a sleeper sofa to 24 Primrose Lane, currently at the edge of construction in Big Bold Dream No. 3.
Without realizing that it was his destination, Mr. Hughes had arrived in Seabrook, or, as the decal on the white Jeep outside the sales office says, "Washington's new authentic beach town."

Image

Everywhere he turned,
perfect porches led to perfect front doors and perfect neo-Nantucket bungalows. Adorable children pedaled past on charming old-fashioned bicycles,
no parental supervision necessary in this safe setting.

This looked nothing like the rest of the ZIP code, which is anchored by Pacific Beach, a misty mix of recreational vehicles and military families taking leave behind the concrete-block walls and chain-link fences of a Navy resort.

About 100 houses have been built in Seabrook, all of them set back across the highway from the beach, and 350 more are planned on about 100 acres. Small two-bedrooms start around $400,000 and larger houses near $1 million.

Shops and a Main Street are still to come, as is a boutique hotel and an organic community garden. Trails have been cut through the woods leading to a beautiful, endless beach. In the evenings, hot tubs and s'mores over outdoor fire pits complete the postcard.

"For me, this is about building a public place that will be here for generations," said Casey Roloff, who is developing Seabrook.

Mr. Roloff is a disciple of New Urbanism, a place-making school that is centered around small lots in walkable villages that took off with the growth of Seaside, in the Florida Panhandle. He grew up in Vancouver, Wash., but spent several years living on the Oregon coast. There he built smaller New Urbanist-style developments, Bella Beach and Olivia Beach.

But the success of those projects only increased his ambition and gave him the resources to spend about $3 million buying timber land in Washington, with an eye toward transforming a coast that has long defied developers' dreams.

"This is my baby," said Mr. Roloff, 36. "I was trying to figure out why people didn't go to the Washington coast, and basically it was the built environment."

Grays Harbor County, which includes Pacific Beach and Aberdeen, its largest city, has struggled for decades amid declines in the logging and fishing industries. The unemployment rate, while on the way down, is close to 7 percent.

Outside of Ocean Shores, the coast here is scattered with motels, the occasional estate and a few newer subdivisions. But it is mostly trees and small beach towns like Moclips, where retired postal workers and maintenance men still own little houses right on the ocean.

The rise of Seabrook, about a three-hour drive from Seattle, has prompted sneers and some tension because of the upscale market it goes after. Its impact on the water and sewer system has been a point of dispute, too.

But the development has generally won praise from local officials and residents for bringing construction jobs, increased tourism, relatively gentle treatment of the land and a sense of validation among some who have long endured as much as 100 inches of annual rainfall and ripping winter winds here.

"A million dollars for a house that is not on the beach?" said Kelly Calhoun, president of the museum of the North Beach. "We never expected that, not out here."

The sleeper sofa finally did make it to 24 Primrose Lane. Dr. Rich Krug, a surgeon from Olympia, chased down the wayward delivery truck on one of those old bicycles and provided directions. He had rented a place in Moclips a couple of years back and had seen Seabrook shortly after construction began in 2004.

"My first thought was, 'Who is the nut job who is doing this?'" said Dr. Krug, 40. "If you can't see the broader vision, you just see a few fancy-looking houses going up in the woods in a depressed area on the opposite side of the water. You think, 'who is going to by those things?'"

One answer turned out to be Dr. Krug; his wife, Darla; and their five young children. Mr. Roloff walked them around Seabrook last summer, and they soon spent about $800,000 on a three-bedroom vacation home with a separate mother-in-law suite. They moved in this past weekend.

"I'm a zealot; it's the zeal of the converted," Dr. Krug said. "Part of my zeal is it's so different from what's been done to this coastline so far."

"It's a little bit like a religious movement," he said, "but I try to modulate my enthusiasm to not come off to much like a cult member."

We saw "Seabrook" again last
week- I'm still not impressed.
Mid-Century is about as far as
I'm prepared to go back. Jerry

Jerry Gropp Architect AIA PS

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Joe
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Postby Joe » Fri May 08, 2009 8:48 am

concept is OK, but the vernacular is all wrong.

authentic beach towns in the northwest have 4x4s, blue tarps everywhere, singlewide mobilehomes, tacky souvenirs, ATVs

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Postby Perks » Fri May 08, 2009 9:27 am

Unless global warming has changed the typical climate of the Washington coastline, I can't imagine spending that much money to live in suc a place.

Sure, places like that seem almost laughably "Truman Show"-esque, but compared to sprawling, thoughtlessly built housing tracts, I think they actually do have something right. Their error, in my mind, is trying to replicate over and over a version of small town America that never actually existed. A more forward-thinking, modernist version of new urbanism does not sound at all odd to me.
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JGropp
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nothing wrong-

Postby JGropp » Fri May 08, 2009 11:01 am

Joe and Perks- I agree, there's
nothing at all wrong with the idea
of "the New Urbanism", it's just
that the ones I've seen are so
badly done. J-
Last edited by JGropp on Sat May 09, 2009 5:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Joe
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Postby Joe » Fri May 08, 2009 11:41 am

The oregon coast is OK, livable most of the year. Washington, on the other hand, is punishment for any human

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Postby jakabedy » Fri May 08, 2009 1:47 pm

Perks wrote:Sure, places like that seem almost laughably "Truman Show"-esque . .


Good eye, young Perks. For the Truman Show was, indeed, filmed at Seaside in the Florida panhandle. I grew up nearby and watched with interest in the early 1980s when Seaside started out. The vernacular fits fairly well there, although that particular stretch of sand was much more low-key (trans: "affordable") before Seaside showed up. Smaller concrete-block beach houses gave way to pastel million-dollar "cottages."

Down the road is Alys Beach, which architecturally draws from the Mediterranean, Barbados and the Dutch Caribbean. Still not the correct vernacular, but a bit more interesting.

http://www.alysbeach.com/

I guess the question is this: Assuming that development is inevitable, and that profit is a component of development, what exactly is the proper vernacular to use? Is a 600 ft.sq. concrete block the form to be emulated, simply because it was the first modern construction in the area? If we accept that architectural needs/desires evolve (as we must, or we would need to give up our MCMs for bungalows, 4-squares, row houses or hogans), then where does the true objection lie?

Is it in the distance travelled to find architectural inspiration? And if so, does Caribbean influence in Florida pass muster, but Massachusetts influence in the PNW does not? Where is the line drawn?
1920s Bungalow Gal turned MCM Maven

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Some more fuel for the fire-

Postby JGropp » Fri May 08, 2009 2:04 pm

I knew this "New Urbanism" Post
would bring on some discussion-
which it has. As with everything,
a good idea can be subverted.

Some more fuel for the fire. JG
https://knol.google.com/k/jerry-gropp-architect-aia/some-thoughts-on-the-new-urbanism/246qxuxd260sm/10#

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Joe
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Postby Joe » Fri May 08, 2009 2:08 pm

my recipe for new development:

Modern, in the sense of honest form-following-function affordable simplicity. Uses local (to the NW) natural products for construction like wood, concrete, glass. timeless design.

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recipe for new development:

Postby JGropp » Fri May 08, 2009 2:20 pm

As to Joe's
"recipe for new development"-
I couldn't have said it better. J

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Postby Izzy » Fri May 08, 2009 3:01 pm

I've lived in Washington State most of my life and i can count on my hands the number of times I've been to the washington coast. There is a very small window where the weather is tolerable there. (atleast for me, i do have some crazy friends who go surfing there often) It is extremely beautiful there if not warm.. We have actually considered renting one of those cottages in seabrook, its a short distance to getaway, its clean, its new, which for me when i am on vacation is important. Sorry, but unless someone has totally redone a cool old 50's motel its not a place you want to spend much time. So i guess Im up in the air on this, ill let you know if we ever do rent one of those places...
Polite and Cordial

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JGropp
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small window-

Postby JGropp » Fri May 08, 2009 3:23 pm

As to "There is a very small
window where the weather is
tolerable there"- oh so true".

We stay at Ocean Crest near
Moclips- enjoy their good food,
walk the beach- rain or shine.
Jerry

Jerry Gropp Architect AIA PS


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Postby jakabedy » Sat May 09, 2009 4:55 am

Joe wrote:my recipe for new development:

Modern, in the sense of honest form-following-function affordable simplicity. Uses local (to the NW) natural products for construction like wood, concrete, glass. timeless design.


But aren't those homes pictured made of wood, concrete and glass? Well, with a little brick thrown in? (and we love our Roman Brick here, so we can't be anti-brick, can we?)

Actually, a lot of the "wood" on those new homes may be cement-board of some kind. And what is cement, but concrete without the aggregate?And isn't cement board technically preferable to wood, as it lowers maintenance costs? In fact, wouldn't steel framing and cement cladding always be preferable when one considers durability, maintenance, environmental advantages (less paint/stain/pest control needed)? Isn't the usage evolution from wood to cement board on exteriors similar to that during the mid-century of woods/metals/linoleum to formica and other plastic surfaces? Why is one technological evolution preferable to the other? Why would one find a poured concrete wall "honest" but a lapped-siding cement-board wall "dishonest?"

I'll grant you that modern construction does make use of materials that I'm sure we all disvalue: MDF trim, vinyl siding, etc.. But if you get away from those particular offenses, and accept the accompanying price increase that necessarily attaches, doesn't it really all come down to what type of design is pleasing to your eye, or to your mission -- your definition of "timeless design?"
1920s Bungalow Gal turned MCM Maven



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materials are one thing-

Postby JGropp » Sat May 09, 2009 3:20 pm

jakabedy-
You're right- materials are one thing, design is
another. It all depends on how these building
materials are used. Here's a Rain City Guide
piece I wrote on the subject (it generated lots
of reader comments). Jerry
http://www.raincityguide.com/2009/03/14/the-white-trim-syndromeall-over-rain-city-theres-a-whole-lot-more-to-designing-homes/

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Postby greenmod » Mon May 11, 2009 8:19 am

We go to the coast at least twice a year. I love the WA coast. So you can't swim and you have to wear a jacket in August, still a good time.

We go to Pacific Beach, mentioned in the article: "which is anchored by Pacific Beach, a misty mix of recreational vehicles and military families taking leave behind the concrete-block walls and chain-link fences of a Navy resort. "

You actually drive right through the Navy resort, there are no walls or fences :roll: The cool thing is all the old navy houses that they rent out now as vacation rentals are mid century ranches. They were super cheaply built, but are post and beam, open living quarter design with the original lighting and built ins. They call them "vintage cottages"
http://www.navylifepnw.com/_Rainbow/ima ... index.html
Allison

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Joe
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Postby Joe » Mon May 11, 2009 8:43 am

when i was a kid, we vacationed at Long Beach every year, camped at Fort Canby by Ilwaco. that's a fun area, but yes, jackets in August!

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Ya wonder

Postby modfan » Mon May 11, 2009 10:07 am

how this is doin a year later after the r.e. super softening market and the super recession?

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Joe
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Re: Ya wonder

Postby Joe » Mon May 11, 2009 11:10 am

modfan wrote:how this is doin a year later after the r.e. super softening market and the super recession?


NW real estate hasn't quite taken it on the chin like SoCal. Down, but not as dire.


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