A Placemaking Journal

American Makeover Debut:
“Seaside: The City of Ideas”

Following up on their debut episode, “Sprawlanta,” the good folks at First + Main Media have unveiled the latest installment in their “American Makeover” documentary series: “Seaside: The City of Ideas.” (Disclosure: PlaceMakers is a sponsor of the series.) In it, town designer Andrés Duany leads a guided tour through New Urbanism’s most iconic project, spelling out a host of best practice lessons and applications that, perhaps most importantly, are not exclusive to resort development.

That is, they’re key to livable, sustainable development wherever you are. Here’s the rundown:

Idea #1: Create a Town
As in: Not a subdivision. Town implies some key attributes typically missing in conventional projects — complete (many uses), complex (mixed uses), compact (close and convenient), connected (through multiple modes of transit and a robust network of route choices), and convivial.

Idea #2: Incremental Urbanism
Keep debt minimal. Build in small increments, as demand materializes.

Idea #3: Versatile Infrastructure
Infrastructure should be able to pull double (or triple) duty.

Idea #4: Limit Lawns
Vanity landscapes, especially those planted contrary to climate, are hugely consumptive of resources. Indigenous plantings are more apt to thrive, even with less of your water, money and time.

Idea #5: Incubator Retail 
Low-cost opportunities for proof-of-concept encourage creative experimentation. Some of these experiments will thrive.

Idea #6: Progressive Retail
Once established, thriving businesses can upgrade to permanent, higher-end space.

Idea #7: Mixed-Use Buildings
Markets don’t necessarily support large, mixed-use buildings early on. Start with modest, one story buildings that can expand over time or be redeveloped to incorporate additional uses once demand has materialized.

Idea #8: Live/Work Units
The “little house on the prairie” is not the only American Dream. We also dream of being our own boss and the live/work unit is the perfect vehicle for serving that dream. Plus, they allow for the development of retail with dispersed risk.

Idea #9: Agnostic to Style
Get your form right. Culture, economics, climate, and fashion will dictate the style game.

Idea #10: Celebrate Civic Buildings
Reserve civic sites up front, but let the community champion their visioning, process and programming.

Idea #11: Amenities for Everyone
Don’t hide or privatize amenities. The most desirable aspects of community should be shared resources and sources of civic pride.

Idea #12: Good Street Geometry = Free Range Kids
When streets are skinny, pedestrians rule.

Idea #13: Recover Trusty Traditions 
Patterns evolve for a reason. There is wisdom in tradition.

Idea #14: Work with Nature 
Embrace and incorporate natural responses to climate.

Idea #15: Pervious Streets
Streets can and should help manage their own impacts.

Idea #16: Original Green – Less is More
Original Green solutions can solve problems, save money and perpetuate a tactile, craftsman ethos.

Idea #17: Vision = Seeing Beyond the Present
“The discipline of vision is not being sunk by present circumstances, reduced to the present circumstances, which often are nothing.” — Andrés Duany

But hey, don’t just take our word for it. Check out the full, beautifully shot installment here:


Scott Doyon

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