MNN: Prior to Seabrook, you developed the Bella Beach vacation rental community on the central Oregon coast. What brought you up north to Washington?
Casey Roloff: Once my wife Laura and I decided to build our own beach town from scratch, we initially wanted to create a place like those found on the Oregon coast. Since the Oregon coast is a lot more developed, the type of land we were looking for was just not available. Given our fond memories of the spectacular Washongton coastline from our camping trips to Olympic National Park, we decided to explore. Most of the coastal land that was developed in Washington was on sand pits between Long Beach and Ocean Shores, which didn't really allow for the spectacular views similar to what drew many Washingtonians to the Oregon coast. We knew the terrain existed, it just hadn't been developed.
That's when we drove further north and found the property that is today Seabrook. The rugged coastline was there reminding us of home — of the Oregon coast where we had spent so much time of our lives. We knew this was the perfect equivalent to some of our favorite places in Oregon. Even more importantly, Seabrook has twice the population within a three hour drive compared to Cannon Beach in Oregon. Seabrook is now serving as a much closer alternative to the Oregon coast for those seeking the Pacific Ocean and deep sandy beaches.
And how did you come across the Seabrook site given that the area around it is a little more off-the-beaten-path than more touristy coastal communities like Ocean Shores?
While it feels like this area is more off the beaten path, its simply been underserved for decades. The primary reason is the difference between how the built environment has been developed. Ocean Shores was developed at a time when we thought we could improve the built environment by building everything at an automobile scale. This 'sprawling' approach to development lacked the 'pedestrian scale' character that is found in many places along the Oregon Coast. We were fortunate to find one of the most beautiful locations situated just southwest of Olympic National Park and south of the most spectacular and rugged coastline.
Although aesthetically 'traditional' right down to the crushed oyster shell paths, Seabrook boasts an untraditionally progressive sustainability statement that revolves around a New Urbanist town plan heavy on pedestrian friendliness and a concentrated town footprint. Can you speak more to Seabrook's overriding New Urbanist vision as well as various town sustainability efforts?
So much of our efforts surround meeting a resident’s basic needs within a five minute walk. This principle can be found in the best towns around the world as well as the best neighborhood districts in the largest cities. So everything we do is striving to make Seabrook more livable without a vehicle.
Green building has received too much attention in our opinion and there has not been enough attention given to building walkable communities that have enough density to become sustainable. Architect, planner, and writer Steve Mouzan explains it best in the 'Original Green.' Essentially, he demonstrates how prior to the car being introduced and sprawl-based development we had no choice but building sustainable villages where multi-generations could live in a compact footprint.
In other words, even if you have a net-zero LEED certified home it's important that it is part of community that allows a resident to live as much as possible without the automobile.
And in terms of the future occupants, both homes are designed to be bi-generational, right? Why was this important?
The two homes together were envisioned by the Sunset team to house two generations of the same family, but really the entire Idea House compound, which is connected through a series of outdoor rooms, gathering spaces and walkways, is a microcosm of key elements of the Seabrook town plan.
For example, the outdoor fireplaces in the Idea House compound are just like what you'll find in special areas throughout Seabrook and they serve the same purpose: giving people spontaneous and serendipitous opportunities to meet, socialize, and create community (or family) bonds. Seabrook also has a five-minute walking principle, which ensures convenient access to all the daily conveniences and needs expected from living or vacationing in a classic beach town. At the Idea Houses, five-minutes has been reduced to one-minute thanks to an amazing kitchen garden just steps from the front doors.
And to back up a bit, how did Seabrook come to be named, for the first time ever, a Sunset Idea Town? And this isn't Seabrook's first time teaming up with a West Coast shelter magazine, correct?
I don't think Sunset started out thinking that they would name Seabrook the first ever Idea Town. At first, they came to us as a destination for their annual Idea House program. We had built a similar home with their sister publication, Coastal Living, and they had heard about us that way. Once the Sunset team learned more about the driving principles behind Seabrook, they felt that the town itself was built on so many big ideas, it only seemed fitting to expand the Idea House project to the town itself.
'Town Founder' is a rather unique title to hold in this day and age. As Town Founder of Seabrook, what's your typical day look like?
While my wife Laura and I got things started, we are simply building a place that a lot of people dream about. It has been a collaborative process from day one with not only our architects and planners but also our owners and guests. We always want to know what they are looking for and what a beach town means to them.
We really just enjoy being part of our Seabrook community each and every day as we raise our family in this beautiful place. We currently have four generations living here from my grandmother who is 90 to my three-year old-daughter. Being able to live at a place like this with my family and walk two minutes to 'work' every morning is truly a blessing that we want to share with as many people as possible. A typical day involves time in the office working with our very talented team members and making decisions that move our vision forward. We make decisions with a broad perspective as the founders and first residents in Seabrook.
Since Seabrook is designed to promote community and deep personal relationships, a stroll through our town's pathways invites conversations with owners, guests, and visitors that enjoy the Washington coast on their porches, in our growing retail district, or down at the beach. I love learning more about the people who live here and visit. It's a pleasure seeing them enjoy quality time with the ones they love; it really makes all the hard work worth it.
Beyond being bestowed with Sunset Idea Town status, what's next for the Washington's first New Urbanist beach town?
We are very excited to be named Sunset's first ever Idea Town and we look forward to all the exposure that will bring our town through their devoted following.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other things happening at Seabrook:
• Seabrook Town Hall is nearly complete which will enable us to host amazing events and host weddings year round.
• Growing retail district: Our merchants are a very dedicated group and they comprise our very successful retail district.
• Farm district: Community gardens and a full barn with horses and an equestrian business is slated to be a brand new attraction at Seabrook starting this summer.
• Dorothy Anderson Cottage: A historic restoration project that features one of the Washington Coast's original cottages built by an industrious woman who loved the coast.
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