Build it well, and smart, and they will come.
That’s a big part of the lesson from Seabrook, Washington, where a young developer named Casey Roloff has brought his New Urbanist approach to the state’s northern coastline. For decades, coastal development has failed in this part of the state, with nothing more than seedy resorts and strip malls to show for it. Meantime, the area’s logging and fishing industries have been on the steep decline for a while, with the unemployment rate currently at 7 percent.
Roloff’s plan was simple: construct quality buildings with good design, including porches and gabled roofs; make the streets walkable and bikable within a compact downtown area; create trails and easy ocean access; throw in a boutique hotel and organic community garden. Just the kind of place most people want to live in, and vacation in. While not perfect by any stretch – all development has costs, in Seabrook’s case the threat of gentrification and environmental impacts on water and sewer systems among them – the shift to an amenity-based economy, with construction jobs, tourism and a commitment to conservation, is a wave Roloff’s intent to ride all the way to bank. And at 36, he’s got plenty of time for surfing.
Too bad the Pacific waters are so darn cold.
A pioneer in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, William Shutkin is the inaugural Chair in Sustainable Development at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. He also serves as the Interim Executive Director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a Partner of the Innovation Network for Communities and a Research Affiliate at MIT.