In Rosemary Beach, Florida, everything is a 5-minute walk away—secret lanes and boardwalks lead to the town square or to the beach. Life is easy, as if the town flows with the contours of the land.
But there is a reason Rosemary Beach has such a flow to it: it was planned that way by renowned architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
Covering an area of 107 acres, Rosemary Beach is a walkable, mixed-use development with its own town hall and post office; the town features 16 parks and playgrounds and four community pools. All of this holds a certain allure to residents and visitors. Even during the economic downturn, people are paying high dollar to be a part of the community.
Kevin Neel is a full-time resident, who lives and works in Rosemary Beach with his three children and wife, Kim. He owns La Crema, a tapas and chocolate bar off the main street.
Neel says, “Values have flattened, but we know it’s a special place and it’s very sought after. We’ve been here three years and we love it. Small town USA with all the European charm.”
A coastal resort town, located on the Florida Panhandle, Rosemary Beach holds special appeal to its full-time and part-time residents, and also to vacationers.
But Rosemary is more than just a town set on a beautiful beach. From its inception, it was meticulously designed according to the principles of New Urbanism.
Neel describes Rosemary Beach: “Very unique architecture, green grass, a town to get anything you need without ever getting into your car. In fact, I go days without driving now.”
Walkability is a primary characteristic in New Urbanist developments, along with increased density, mixed-use structures and quality architecture.
“Home values in walkable neighborhoods are measurably higher than those that are not, even when other relevant factors are controlled in the analysis,” says Kaid Benfield, director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth Program in Washington, D.C.
Even in Florida where the real estate crash had a severe impact, Rosemary Beach sales have slowed, but values have not fallen in all cases. For a high-end community, home values in Rosemary Beach have remained strong, when compared to some of the neighboring areas with lesser planned infrastructures.
People who purchase homes in such a well-planned town know what the community will look like ten years down the road. They trust the architectural covenants and zoning restrictions serve a higher purpose and keep in mind the good of the entire community.
Here, in Rosemary, everyone has a uniquely designed home, and about everything you look at—including the streets—are picturesque.
Brian Anthony Hernandez wrote in the Christian Science Monitor: “New research suggests when people ‘love’ the culture of their towns, economic prosperity follows. In a three-year Gallup survey of 26 U.S. cities, researchers learned the communities with highest levels of resident attachment — a person's passion for where he or she lives — also had the highest rates of GDP growth over time.”
Neel and his family hold this passion; Neel likens his sentiments for Rosemary Beach and its people to feelings of Barcelona, Spain, where he and his wife traveled and were inspired to start La Crema.
He talks fondly about running and biking in the green spaces with his kids and spending more family time than he did in his old life. He says, “It's a cool place for them to grow up and I hope they see that. My wife and I sure wish we grew up here, but in a way, we are right now by finding out what's really important.”
As long as families like the Neels are around to promote the beauties of life in Rosemary Beach, it is hard to imagine home values going anywhere but up.