Earlier today, South Main Co. released a new blog titled “Live from South Main“. South Main is a fantastic traditional neighborhood with beautiful architecture and a fantastic setting. The following is an article I wrote for the Colorado Urbanist in Fall, 2008:
The tour of South Main began at the offices of South Main, Inc. in downtown Buena Vista, where participants followed hosts Jed Selby and Katie Selby Urban to the project site. The knowledgeable hosts spent the day explaining the different facets and aspects of the project to the group. Katie graciously opened her South Main home for a lunch and brief presentation, which concluded the day’s events.
While South Main officially sits on 41 acres, the young and ambitious brother and sister team have purchased additional blocks of land including parcels along the existing Main Street in downtown Buena Vista. South Main is situated along the headwaters of the Arkansas River and surrounded by thousands of acres of preserved open space across the river. According to Katie, the headwaters of the Arkansas River attract 600,000 visitors each year who visit the beautiful setting to enjoy whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fishing.
An all-star cast of architects and new urbanist designers were involved in the creation of South Main including Victor Dover, Steve Mouzon, Peter Swift, Allison Ramsey Architects, Opticos (Architects), and Kenny Craft and Minet Mahoney. Currently, Craft and Mahoney serve as architects for South Main Development Company, which streamlines the architectural process and makes the costs to the consumer more economical. In addition, in January 2008 the team started their own construction company for the South Main project to further save costs. In the past, buyers purchased lots with the intention of construction within two years. Now consumers can actually purchase lots with immediate access to architectural and construction services reducing the total time and cost required.
As with many new urbanist communities, charrettes were held at the beginning of the process. Organizers achieved a high level of public participation through advertising in local newspapers and news stations. The meetings helped formulate a vision and gave opposition a chance to articulate their concerns. Certain parameters of the project were established at this time with public officials in attendance in order to minimize later conflict. In initial charrettes, local Longmont Civil Engineer, Peter Swift laid out the street types and asked for the City to sign off on the street design to mitigate future surprises. Sustainability is a major aspect of new urbanist communities with a focus on pedestrian circulation and creating community. This is definately true of South Main.
Not only will residents of South Main be able to easily walk to the retail and live/work options in their immediate neighborhood, they will also be just a short walk away from supporting downtown businesses. South Main structures are also sustainable and are all required to meet “Built Green” standards. According to Katie, the architecture is timeless, and the homes will not seem dated in the future. Many of the goals and objectives of South Main will blend into the existing fabric of downtown Buena Vista. Development on the newly purchased land between current South Main site and downtown Buena Vista will add to the fabric.
Re-use and sustainable practices at South Main include the recycling and grinding of excess wood and drywall to be used for mulch. The site also has an abundance of large boulders which have been used in several ways including the creative approach to flatten the central park along the Arkansas River. Boulders have also been broken down and used for the road base for the site as well.
The kayak park in South Main, which is of course a central focus of a community created by professional kayakers, includes three kayak surf waves and a great river pedestrian trail. State funded grants were given to South Main, Inc. for the rehabilitation of the riverfront. The team took great advantage of the grants and helped mold a once forgotten and neglected piece of riverfront into fantastic amenity for Buena Vista. During the tour, it was obvious that these natural settings are certainly utilized by neighborhood and surrounding residents. Future plans for the riverfront park include Eddyline Restaurant and Brewery, which officially broke ground on the first of November. The restaurant will include walk-out views of a whitewater wave feature. Future plans include an artificial rock climbing wall along the river as well as an additional surf wave.
Careful planning went into South Main’s street design. Terminated vistas in South Main include the courthouse tower in downtown Buena Vista, the natural beauty of the Arkansas River Valley and, of course, the Collegiate Peaks. Upright trees enhance and complement the major view corridors with the alteration of Lanceleaf Poplar and Patmore Green Ash. The alteration of the upright trees creates a rhythm along the streets and preserves views of the mountain region. Cottonwoods have been installed along other streets due to their quick growth and shade assets. One of most recognizable streets in South Main is also one of the narrowest. The parkway measures 10’ from the face of the curb to the edge of the road and includes a median. Vehicles may park between the trees on the outside (or oncurb) of the parkway. Swift Circle, though not currently fully developed, will be one of the more intimate streets in South Main. Coincidentally, Katie has made this street her home address. A proposal for the street to utilize 6-12” rock from the river was mocked up for the City, but not approved. A decision on paving material is still to be determined for this street, but undoubtedly its character is likely to be first-class.
I enjoyed the tour of South Main and am especially thankful to Katie and Jed for providing insight and history on the project. The team is obviously passionate about this project, its objectives and their commitment to creating community. A personal favorite of my visit to South Main is the village park. A lot of care and detail considerations have already gone into the park. Future possibilities for this space are remarkable. I would encourage everyone to take a road trip to Buena Vista this upcoming spring to see the progress firsthand.
I have heard many good things about South Main’s progress since the tour in the summer of 2008 with the opening of Eddyline Brewery, art galleries, festivals, etc. I can not wait to make it back to South Main to see the progress and its evolution.