The place: Rosemary Beach
Walk score: 51
A lot of us seem to like Rosemary Beach and I'm no exception. I'm not sure how much of this might be to do with the fact that we were hosted by town architects Ron Domin and Doug Bock on our first night there, and toured around by Doug (video coming soon) on our second visit because there's unquestionably something that's added to the experience of a place by the people you meet. At Rosemary we ate, mixed and even saw inside real people's homes - although that was real people with a helluva lot of money. (Like the guy who spent about $6million on the house to knock it to the ground to 'start fresh', rebuilding it for several million. Oh, and use it a couple of times a year. Profligate, is all I will say.)
So it's with an affectionate lens perhaps that we view the main street that leads down to the beach at one end and the square at the other, as working particularly well. Architecturally, it's diverse, but also consistent, including a number of mixed uses - live-works (like the one that belongs to Domin Bock) although not holding enough small courtyard spaces within it, according to Doug.
And, while we only saw about a fifth of the place - far from enough to judge it really - it definitely felt more homely and lived in and less resorty than either Alys or Seaside. The fact that about 30-40% of owners live there may have a lot to do with this as well as supporting what appears to be a wider economic base; as a town centre it's more urban and diverse than it's early coastal counterpart further east down the 30A. .
Interestingly, this town centre works well with what appear to be far fewer civic buildings but far more businesses - and a beautiful post office. Doug points out Rosemary's grassy square is far smaller and somehow less inviting than its equivalent at Seaside, but the effect overall is far more real life than movie set.
It too, has its version of Seaside's paths and streets but laid out far less regularly it seems. Here wide boardwalks about 8 feet across, bisected by narrower paths covered in shell grit form a pedestrian grid that's intimate and interesting. The effect is more discovery than pre-determined route; at Seaside you always know where the Gulf is while at Rosemary, you could almost get lost.
Architecturally the built form features a number of versions of the Charleston side home - a typology developed to cope with the hot and humid climate of Charleston and reinterpreted here; designed in a way that puts Rosemary in the middle of the privacy progression, allowing some semi private space at the fronts of the homes with more private space at the side. (In their original form, the Charleston side home was one room wide to maximise cross-flow ventilation, with a two storey veranda stretching down the long side.)
The carriage houses, built at the rear, also provide secondary rentals and help enclose the rear lanes, making them appear narrower than they are but also inhabited as well. With the homes designed by multiple architects (although Domin Bock have designed abput 40) but approved by the town architects, the result is less regular; interesting but not chaotic. This is probably increased by what seems like much higher density here than at Seaside, again partly due to the fact that there's far more land here on the beach side of the highway making a larger valuable piece of real estate. The solution? Get more homes into the area.
Wrapping up, it was clear that while not all of us may be as wealthy as some of Rosemary's 8 digit buyers, most of us could relate to it; we felt comfortable.