South Main: Adaptive, Flexible, Resilient

Over Labor Day weekend of 2011, my family met up with my parents in the beautiful neighborhood setting of South Main in Buena Vista, Colorado. South Main has been referenced in prior blog posts however for new readers, it is an evolving neighborhood built upon the foundational elements of the Charter of the New Urbanism. The neighborhood is unique in that it was developed by professional kayakers as a kayak river park first – neighborhood second.

A view of a cobblestone street called Swift Street in South Main.

The neighborhood is still in its infant years, yet the buzz across Southern Colorado is comparable to an established urban resort community. It is often mentioned and referenced in discussions in Colorado Springs so it is not a surprise to see other development professionals wandering the streets of South Main. In my brief two-day visit to South Main, I spoke to a couple of home builders from Texas and a new Urbanist legend, Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (Check out Dan’s photos and comments on Facebook). The visiting professionals were referred to the neighborhood tucked into Arkansas Riverfront by others – popular simply by word-of-mouth.

The palette of materials in the architecture at South Main allows for variation providing unifying elements throughout the neighborhood.

In the year that I have been away from South Main, many changes have been made. New homes have been completed, attached live/work units have meticulously been constructed, other first floors uses have been activated with a mix of retail, furniture sales, attorney offices and art galleries. It is rapidly taking an organic form that will, at full build out, rival neo-traditional neighborhoods across the country. 

It is the second time my family has stayed in the vacation rental called The Firehouse in South Main. The Firehouse is the second floor of a live/work unit with three bedrooms that sleeps ten guests. The interior of The Firehouse is beautifully finished with high ceilings, wide hallways and a terrific kitchen, perfect for a couple of families, or a group of outdoor enthusiasts.

The vacation rental component of South Main is one of the great features of adaptability in the new economy that is possible in a new urban neighborhood. The framework of a new urban community includes the bones of adaptability and flexibility of use. Conventional single-use subdivisions cannot compete in adaptability because they do not have the same flexibility, nor diversity that enables creative adaptation. The recognition of the South Main Company that there is a demand for week-long or weekend tenants in the Banana Belt of Colorado is just one creative way that South Main is successful in an otherwise poor economy.

I enjoy the casual feel of bicycles parked on the sidewalks. I think that it gives the feeling of a secure, hip and casual neighborhood.
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3 Comments

  1. Nice write-up John, I can’t wait to visit. The South Main team is really doing a remarkable job and their passion for the project and the greater community is clear. With so much cookie-cutter junk being built today, places like South Main are highlighting the value of creating an authentic place.

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