Building a dream - Brother, sister plan anti-suburb in Colorado
Imagine being able to live, work and play in a place where everything is within walking distance.
The brother and sister duo of Jed and Katie Selby are hoping that recreating homes that are surrounded by parks, commerce and beauty will lure people from the suburban sprawl and the comfort of their cars. South Main is where they hope to do it.
South Main is a city concept created by the Selbys. Its on the edge of Buena Vista, Colorado, and will be a mixed-use development of homes and business space for all walks of life.
Making dreams a reality
The idea for South Main came in 2002, when the siblings purchased about 40 acres of land adjacent to the Buena Vista downtown area. Both siblings are professional kayakers -- she's 29; he's 27 -- and were attracted to the area because of its climate and proximity to the Arkansas River.
Using family money, they initially planned to build only a white-water park. Those plans changed slightly, though, when they took a closer look at the area and saw how close it was to the town center.
"We thought it was a unique opportunity to connect the historic downtown to the river and [to] have permanent public access [to it]," Katie Selby said.
"The reason we chose to do a project in Buena Vista is that it really represents the last [relatively] untouched place in Colorado," Jed added.
Armed with ideas and a vision, the duo embarked on their journey of building South Main. They visited a neighborhood called Prospect New Town in Longmont, Colorado, that shared similarities with their vision. There they met Kiki Wallace, the town's founder and developer. Wallace then became a mentor to the Selbys and also recommended Dover, Kohl & Partners, the planning firm that they ended up using.
"[South Main] is built on the principles of new urbanism, which are nothing new," Jed said. "It's essentially built around basic human needs, including places to work, places to shop, places to gather. The difference is that they're all within walking distance."
One of their first hurdles was coming to terms with their new titles: developers. The Selbys knew that the profession had some negative association, but they were passionate enough about their ideas to deal with the new label.
"Developers are the second lowest on the food chain in the United States," Jed said. "I think the only [profession] lower is the attorney."
In the beginning of their venture, though, Katie was a bit apprehensive about her new title.
"When we first started this, she was like, 'Oh, we're building a sustainable neighborhood community thing,' " Jed said. "She would never say, 'I'm a developer."
They've come a long way since then, though, and they've broken ground on South Main and mapped all of the streets and the one stoplight. The current population is just over 2,000, and they expect another 850.
South Main will include large single-family house lots, small single-family houses, apartments and retail spaces. The Selbys hope to attract a diverse population.
"There's a good mix for people of all different age groups and income categories within the neighborhood," Katie said.
In addition to planning homes and businesses, they've also teamed up with the City of Buena Vista to create the world's largest white-water park. It is scheduled to be completed in the fall.
Best of both worlds
South Main has been designed "for people rather than cars," Katie said.
Within six weeks, they sold 90 percent of the lots in Phase 1 of the community. What they initially thought would take a year or two to sell ended up taking only a-month-and-a-half.
"The people took to this a lot better than we could have ever anticipated," say Jed.
The siblings are counting on a trend toward downtown revitalization and that a better quality of life will attract people and businesses to South Main. With gas prices rising and suburbs becoming more congested, they are trying to create a pleasant alternative.
"One of our biggest goals here is to have the most vibrant, wonderful downtown center while preserving as much of the outlying area as possible," Katie said.
"Our involvement with South Main will be forever. We will always be a part of this neighborhood, of this community. It's a wonderful place."