Friday, December 09, 2005

Seaside, FL - Weight of Success Proving Heavy

The New York Times has an article on the challenges facing Seaside--the Andres Duany-designed Florida Panhandle resort community that presaged the success of the New Urbanist movement in the United States.

One of the challenges is ecological. Hurricane Dennis subsumed portions of the beach and damaged the dunes separating the housing from the Gulf's waters. As the article rightly asserts, the planning framework employed by developer Robert Davis and Duany--which limited private housing on the oceanfront in favor of a communal beach--proved fortuitous. Since housing doesn't abut the water and natural dune systems were respected, housing took less of a hit than in other parts of the region.

Erosion, however, remains an issue--particularly given recent predictions by climatologists that severe weather will likely continue to pummel the region. What would happen in the event of a Category 5 hitting Seaside is unknown, but it certainly wouldn't be pretty.

The article also discusses the success of Seaside and how prices have increased dramatically and "urban" problems like traffic congestion are festering.

This latter aspect is interesting. The article fails to discuss the regional growth in the Panhandle and the role of state government--and, in particular, Governor Jeb Bush--in setting into motion a series of growth policies that are significantly transforming the area. The issue is particularly complex--as most large scale development issues are; but I would point people interested in learning more about the transformation of the panhandle into what will essentially be one large suburb sprawling to two sources.

First, check out June Wiaz and Katherine Ziewitz's book from last year, Green Empire: The St. Joe Company and the Remaking of Florida's Panhandle which looks at the state's largest real estate developer and land owner and their plans for transforming the region. Next, Bill Moyers did a special a couple of years ago exploring the issue of Jeb Bush's ties to St. Joe's. I haven't verified the links, but this blog apparently has clips of the program.