Posted on 4/5/2022
When Ocean Reef Vacation Rentals & Real Estate was founded in 1982, a little coastal town most of us know and love was just breaking ground on a small stretch of forgotten beach highway along Florida's Northwest coast. The stories of Seaside and Scenic 30A are weaved together like a fine tapestry. The people and lives they have touched are innumerable. Great fruits have grown from that initial seed. That humble concept of building a new urbanist-style community by the shore has enriched lives far and wide. At one time, long ago, before the town was even incorporated, an idea was floated to redirect the very road it was on to better suit the proposed downtown district.
Candy color beach cottages frame the best shopping and dining for miles in this small town by the shore. Just in case you're unfamiliar, Seaside, Florida, is a tiny gem of a beach town with classic Americana style. The concept known as New Urbanism, which first influenced the town's inception, has come to be defined by the town itself. Seaside is quaint, walkable, and more architecturally significant than cities five times its age (and size).
All things considered, we are delighted that the original idea was scratched. Keeping Seaside's downtown, along 30A has created a bustling incubator for small businesses, romantic interludes, and family get-togethers - like no place else in the world. One can easily imagine a town where the business and civic structures are set off the main road. The St. Joe communities of WaterColor and Watersound have placed more of their business centers, shops, and retail away from the 30A. Though the shops there are charming and do have a protected feel, that same quality separates them from the travelers on the street. Openness. This very simple theme can be found throughout Seaside. Seaside isn't gated; the homes here are connected not just by streets but by alleyways and their porches too. This creates connectivity and flows seamlessly with the outside world. Letting human interaction, living and conversations waft through the town. Though it may be less protected, it is the essence of place-making and a pillar of qualities that make Seaside, Florida, what it is.
In the very early sketches and renderings, you can see the compartmentalization of the town districts. There is a subtle definition of the various districts. In these early visual definitions of what the town would become, we find shopping, dining, tennis, sports centers, pools, homes, and mixed-use buildings all separately defined yet interconnected and, above all, walkable. We can all rest peacefully now, knowing the town center is located along our beloved Scenic Highway 30A. The road has not been moved, and it will stay that way forever ... Or will it?
From its inception, Seaside has been slated to feature a tall observation tower. This concept has been proposed in many forms, but essentially it is a place for visitors to climb several flights of stairs and behold the town of Seaside from a bird's eye view. The most recent architectural rendering plops that tower, smack-dab in the middle of town, on you guessed it, 30A. This location will require the redirection of the road. Though not as drastic as the initial idea of running it north into the woods, about an eighth of a mile, instead, it will be a tasteful little jog around the tower. One that will both slow traffic down as well as give passers-by an unobstructed view of the town, the shore, and the grand observation tower. The verdict is still out on the when and the how, but the where has been decreed, at least at the time of this writing.
Seaside, much like 30A itself, continues to grow, ebb and flow, almost like a river. It's ever-changing, yes, but somehow it retains the core gestalt that has made it what it is today. The crown jewel of the Emerald Coast. A place that is still very much the new town, embracing the old ways.