Seaside Town Square and Beachfront Master Plan

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Location: Seaside, Florida. A new urbanist community

The ongoing ability of Seaside, even after 30 years, to adapt and evolve urbanistically, architecturally, and socially, is one of it’s most often overlooked characteristics. Yet even as Seaside evolves, there is a distinct character that defines Seaside that is embodied within the changes. This Master Plan, which was the product of many hands-on meetings with Seaside’s Town Founders, establishes a framework for the evolution of the town square and the beachside district of Seaside that will allow it to evolve; at the same time it will enhance the character so specific to Seaside.

The purpose of the plan is to create a modern day agora for Seaside with a new beachside plaza that provides a much stronger link between the downtown and the ocean, improvements to the Town Square that reinforce it as the center of activity, new market buildings that reinforce the downtown as a center of commerce, and a newly designed Civic Tower that will serve as a beacon for Seaside and the region.

The Amphitheater Perimeter

The outer edge of the amphitheater is lined with three continuous rows of palm trees, which support canvas panels and provide a continuous shaded walkway along the new 20’ wide boardwalk. This space can function with small kiosks or booths for programmed events. These palms visually define the inner edge of the amphitheater, but also provide long views across the amphitheater toward the tower and market buildings and beyond to the new plaza. The inner edge of Central Square Drive has been converted to parallel parking for daily use and will integrate a rolled curb to allow head-in parking during special events so vendors can pull vehicles onto the boardwalk.

Beachside Plaza

The new plaza is approximately 85’ wide x 125’ long and establishes a formal relationship between the Seaside Square and the market area to the beach and ocean. The vibrant, hardscaped public space is bounded by two approximately 4,800-square foot, two-story, buildings with deep, two-story arcades that clearly define both sides of the plaza. The western-most building on the plaza is skewed to define the view toward the Seaside pavilion from the Highway 30-A viewing axis.

The plan’s framework primarily reinforces the major moves that the original plan put in place 25 years ago and enables the downtown to take the next step in its evolution as a true urban place. It combines the several – now somewhat disparate elements within the center – into a modern day agora.

Beachside Residences

Up to 14 residential units have been designed to define a pattern along the beachside dunes, similar to the scale and character of the second phase of Scott Merill’s Honeymoon Cottages. These units maintain the strong east- west pedestrian axis and serve as a transition from the 50’ tall gateway buildings to the arcaded buildings that define the new plaza.

The New Market Area

The new market area flanks a civic tower on the east and west sides and defines the southern edge of the amphitheater. The parti of the market area takes its cues from the original Perspicasity markets, whose program will be relocated to the eastern portion of the new market area by providing a similar outdoor market or bazaar- like shopping environment. The western portion will be occupied by a restaurant and bar. The markets are anchored by “temple bar” buildings on each end that contrast heavy masonry construction with light wood shutters.

Architecturally, these buildings take cues from the elegant restraint of Charles Barrett’s pool pavilion, that so successfully combined classical and vernacular forms, and from detailing, that seems to have foreshadowed the evolution of Seaside’s and the region’s architecture. These buildings reference ancient Greek stoas but are adapted to feel in place in Seaside. This reference is most evident in the two-story portion of the market buildings that provide “open-air” dining on the upper floor and will serve as a backdrop for performances in the amphitheater.

What will downtown Seaside ultimately evolve into? Purposeful or not, this plan still seems to leave room for future evolution. For instance, would it make sense to define the inner perimeter of the square with buildings? There is no reason that this could not happen in the future. Like all good urban places it seems that Seaside will continue to evolve long after this plan is in place.

Response to Charter Award Principles

This Plan is submitted in the category related to the second scale of the Charter: Neighborhoods, Districts, and Corridors. The project area is the downtown and beachfront areas of the existing New Urban town of Seaside, Florida.

Currently, the amphitheater informally accommodates performances throughout the year but feels unfinished; the beachfront accommodates “temporary” commercial structures that were built almost 30 years ago and airstream trailers occupy the area between Highway 30A and the amphitheater, providing incubator spaces for new businesses. The plan calls for the formalization of the amphitheater perimeter and stage to better accommodate performances, an intensification of the beachfront area with a range and mix of uses that will reinforce the walkability of Seaside, the integration of new public spaces and a civic tower to reinforce the importance of the public realm in an urban place, and a series of new market buildings and restaurant uses defining the southern edge of the amphitheater. Since the Plan is redeveloping an area of the town with respect to its overall urban pattern and begins to show designs for the primary buildings within the area, it touches upon all scales of the Charter for New Urbanism.

Charter Principle Six

The plan’s framework primarily reinforces the major moves that the original plan put in place 25 years ago and enables the downtown to take the next step in its evolution as a true urban place. It combines the several – now somewhat disparate elements within the center – into a modern day agora.

The ongoing ability of Seaside, even after 30 years, to adapt and evolve urbanistically, architecturally, and socially, is one of Seaside’s most important characteristics that is often overlooked. Yet even as Seaside evolves, there is a distinct character that defines Seaside that is embodied within the changes. This Master Plan establishes a framework for the evolution of the town square and the beachside district of Seaside that will allow it to evolve, but at the same time enhance, the character that is specific to Seaside.

Charter Principle Twelve

The purpose of the plan is to create a modern day agora for Seaside with a new beachside plaza that provides a much stronger link between the downtown and the ocean, improvements to the Town Square that reinforce it as the center of activity, new market buildings that reinforce the downtown as a center of commerce, and a newly designed civic tower that will serve as a civic beacon for Seaside and the region.

Charter Principle Sixteen

The new market area flanks a civic tower on the east and west sides and defines the southern edge of the amphitheater. The parti of the market area takes it cues from the original Perspicasity markets, whose program will be relocated to the eastern portion of the new market area by providing a similar outdoor market or bazaar- like shopping environment. The western portion will be occupied by a restaurant and bar. The markets are anchored by “temple bar” buildings on each end that contrast heavy masonry construction with light wood shutters.

Architecturally, these buildings take cues from the elegant restraint of Charles Barrett’s pool pavilion that so successfully combined classical and vernacular forms and from detailing that seems to have foreshadowed the evolution of Seaside’s and the region’s architecture. These buildings reference ancient Greek stoas while, at the same time, adapting them to feel in place in Seaside. This reference is most evident in the two-story portion of the market buildings that provide “open-air” dining on the upper floor and will serve as a backdrop for performances in the amphitheater.

Charter Principle Nineteen

The new plaza is approximately 85’ wide x 125’ long, and establishes a formal relationship between the Seaside Square and the market area to the beach and ocean. The vibrant, hard-scaped public space is bounded by two approximately 4,800 square foot, two-story, buildings with deep, two-story arcades that clearly define both sides of the plaza. The western-most building on the plaza is skewed to define the view toward the Seaside pavilion from the Highway 30-A viewing axis.

Lessons learned: The ongoing ability of Seaside, even after 30 years, to adapt and evolve urbanistically, architecturally, and socially is one of Seaside’s most important characteristics that is often overlooked. The retail programming within vibrant urban places needs constant attention to ensure the economic success of the place. Great urban places are always evolving. Therefore this plan still leaves room for future evolution. For instance, would it make sense to define the inner perimeter of the square with buildings? There is no reason that this could not happen in the future. Like all good urban places it seems that Seaside will continue to evolve long after this plan is in place. Well-detailed architecture reinforces the quality of a place. Architecturally, the buildings in this master plan take cues from the elegant restraint of Charles Barrett’s pool pavilion that so successfully combined classical and vernacular forms and detailing that seems to have foreshadowed the evolution of Seaside’s and the region’s architecture. These buildings reference ancient Greek Stoas while at the same time adapting them to feel in place in Seaside. This reference is most evident in the two-story portion of the market buildings that provide “open-air” dining on the upper floor and will serve as a backdrop for performances in the amphitheater.

Transect Zone(s): T4 general, T5 center.
Status: 1-25% Built
Project or Plan's Scale: Block
Land area (in acres): 5
Total built area (in sq. ft.):
Total project cost (in local currency):
Retail area (in sq. ft.): 20000
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Number of residential units (include live/work): 30
Parks & green space (in acres):
Residential types: Low-rise flats, Townhouse/rowhouse/maisonette.
Project team designers: Opticos Design, Inc. with Leon Krier
Project team developers: Robert Davis, Seaside Community Development Corporation

Previous site status:

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: - 2030