In a real estate market where moribund sales figures have caused some developers to throw in the towel, one is finding a way to make its development shine.
“The importance of making our product unique extends beyond the narrow timeframe of the current recession,” Chris Murphy, marketing manager at Seabrook Land Company in Olympia, Wash., says.
Seabrook is a master-planned community that incorporates public spaces, recreational spaces, a town center, and a beach. Located a mile south of the town of Pacific Beach on the Washington coast, Seabrook will have 400 homes on 303 lots when fully built out, as well as room for additional homes on adjacent land. There are also plans for on-site businesses including a grocery store, bank, theater, hotel, restaurants, a spa, art galleries and a pub.
The five-year-old Seabrook has recently added its Beach Camp Cottages to catch the eye of buyers during the recession. At less than $200,000, these one-bedroom, one-bath cottages cost less than other properties at Seabrook, which Murphy says will make homeownership at Seabrook more financially feasible for buyers who appreciate the concept but feel uneasy about making a large real estate purchase in difficult times.
“Additionally, this has established continued work for our construction team as well as continuing to (provide) evidence that Seabrook’s town plan continues to buck national sales trends,” he says.
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Despite a slight slowdown last year, Murphy says sales have picked up in 2009. “We’ve sold 19 homes this year already; with 13 home sales in all of 2008, we are poised to increase sales by 100 percent.”
A Traditional Beach Town – And More
In order to create the feeling of an established beach-town community feeling, Seabrook takes as inspiration some of the most well-known seaside resorts in the country.
“We’ve assembled a list of attributes that we feel are necessary to create traditional beach towns that emulate places like Carmel, Calif., and Nantucket, Mass., and to inspire families and friends to spend time outside of their (homes),” he says, adding that the combination of amenities as well as a pedestrian-friendly town plan and rugged, expansive coastline not typically found on the Washington coast, creates a unique coastal destination for buyers of primary homes as well as vacation rentals.
They are hardly alone in this endeavor. Across the country in Seagrove Beach, Florida, the Seaside development differentiates its project by offering a mix of residential, retail, and recreational space along the coastline. Seaside also has its own charter school, the Seaside Neighborhood School, as well as a chapel and even a “Seaside Institute” which researches methods of refining and improving residential communities. The Institute holds forums and conferences on architecture, planning and urban affairs and awards an Seaside Prize to recognize those who make significant contributions to communities. Seaside officials did not respond to a NuWire request for comment.
“A Three-Legged Stool”
Murphy says that from the beginning, the developers of Seabrook have kept what he calls a “three-legged stool” in mind when confronted with difficult business decisions. This consists of three elements:
- Community, or partnering with local towns and stakeholders in order to show respect for local history and culture.
- Environment, or the creation of a walkable town while preserving the most sensitive areas as well as a commitment to sustainable building practices.
- Economic success, which entails creating a new economic vehicle for Grays Harbor County as well as building an alternative to the Oregon coast.
He says making Seabrook unique means concentrating on households with incomes of $150,000 or more, as well as a geographic radius of three hours. “The challenges have primarily been in terms of drawing people to Seabrook and educating them on the unique development style,” he says.
Those challenges, however, were abated somewhat when Seaside was recognized as Time Magazine’s Design of the Decade. Murphy says that recognition established credibility for a town-planning concept. He also says Seabrook’s emphasis on green architecture as well on walkable communities dovetails well with today’s focus on the environment.
“Additionally, the more individuals heed environmental concerns related to oil consumption, the more walkability will be on the forefront of people’s minds as the solution,” he says.