Walkability Sustainability News

Sustainability Takes Shape in Colorado

Jed Selby didn’t consider himself a land developer when he and his sister Katie Urban purchased some 42 acres on the banks of the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, CO, in 2003. The former pro kayaker envisioned a cozy town with tree-lined streets, where he could walk everywhere, and that offered world-class waves.

“I just wanted to be able to walk from a bar to a wave—and maybe build a few houses,” he told Mountain Living magazine.

The siblings have been building their dream-town for the past nine years at South Main, a pedestrian-friendly community located a short walk from Buena Vista’s historic main street, with a commitment to conscientious land use and green building practices. The site abuts what Selby says is one of the best kayaking spots in the country, and now features a new whitewater park.

Opticos Design was hired early in the project to design compact, adaptable, and attractive live/work units for the development. Selby liked the results so much, he asked Opticos to design a special version of the building for his own use. The Gold Rush-inspired residence is a microcosm of South Main’s aims as a whole, uniting traditional design with modern technique—and it exceeds Colorado’s statewide Build Green requirements.

Almost 50 buildings have been completed since 2007, ranging from single-family homes, row houses and live/work spaces to a restaurant, clothing boutique, art gallery and even a private school. But that’s just the beginning: The community’s plans include up to 500 buildings by the time it’s completed.

A panorama showing the live/work unit Opticos designed for Jed Selby. Photo courtesy of Scott Duiven.

Selby plans to start construction on four new single-family homes later this year, while the The Surf Chateau, a 20-room boutique hotel on the river, is set to open this summer. The hotel will offer balconies overlooking Selby’s whitewater park along the river. There is also a farm-to-table restaurant that would be supplied by South Main’s newly purchased 274-acre organic farm in the works, as well as riverfront restaurant, rafting company, yoga studio, and climbing gym.

Urban is working on a 5,800-square-foot, two-story building with two storefronts on the first floor and five long-term rental apartments upstairs. The project will be the development’s first set of attached rental apartments.

“For somebody who has lived here for some time, I’m just in awe at all of it,” Chaffee County commissioner Dennis Giese recently said in an interview with The Denver Post. “I just stopped by the Buena Vista Roastery coffee shop, and I looked up and down Main Street and there were people everywhere. Young people, young families. And that’s what South Main has brought.”

Selby and Urban build and sell one property at a time, each customized to fit its owner’s style and budget, while still adhering to the community’s design guidelines for sustainable, walkable development. The community’s style ranges from Victorian to Craftsman, but “it’s all under the veil of traditional architecture,” said Selby. “It’s important for us to maintain a tie to the spirit of old Colorado towns.”

Building a Walkable Place A Developer’s Framework for Getting it Done from Sonoran Institute on Vimeo.

Main image courtesy of South Main.

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