The Ancient Craft of Building Towns

Visit charming Seabrook

About 12 miles north of Ocean Shores near Pacific Beach on the Washington coast, there’s a small town with so much charm and character it looks as though it has been there for decades. It’s quickly becoming a destination for folks in search of the perfect family vacation, a romantic getaway, work retreats, and seaside weddings. Welcome to Seabrook.

There is a reason Seabrook feels good the moment you arrive — it was designed that way. It’s an award-winning example of town building, which, as it turns out, is nearly a lost art. Unlike the suburbs that define so many American towns, Seabrook was designed with pedestrians — not cars — in mind. It’s a place that encourages people to walk, mingle, and visit, thanks to streets lined with sidewalks and homes with giant welcoming front porches, perfect for rocking chairs, laughs, and tall icy glasses of lemonade.

Seabrook is a gem of a beach town created by a young couple, Casey and Laura Roloff, and a team of skilled experts, including Laurence Qamar, the town planner and Portland-based architect, and Stephen Poulakos, the town development director and landscape designer.


Photo by Asa Mathat

As a child, Roloff said, he often dreamed of creating a town. But, it wasn’t until he met Qamar that the dream began to become a reality. First Roloff built a few houses in the Lincoln City, Ore., area. Then he worked with Qamar creating the nearby 12-acre Bella Beach neighborhood. Finally in 2002, the two drove the lonely stretch of coast near Pacific Beach. Shortly after, Qamar began drawing the town that has since leapt off the page. It wasn’t long before the pair brought on Poulakos with his detailed town design talents. The three formed the core of the team that has succeeded in building and selling a town, at a time where even selling a primary residence had been difficult.

They chose a lonely stretch of Washington coastal land perched high above the Pacific Ocean. People in the greater-Seattle area looking for a well-rounded beach vacation had to drive to Oregon’s Cannon Beach or farther. Roloff and the team realized the potential, and 11 years later, they know their dream was spot on. Sure, people like the location for its breathtaking beauty. And they like Seabrook because, well, it’s good for the soul in more ways than one. “Many of the people who have a second home here say they have more friends here than they do at their primary residence that they’ve lived in for 15 or 20 years,” Roloff noted.

They used Seaside, Florida as inspiration. It’s the town used in the movie The Truman Show and was selected as TIME magazine’s “Design of a Decade.” It was a prime example of a New Urban town and inspired Roloff and his team who then created Seabrook, a coastal escape like no other on the Washington Coast.

Despite our mostly drive-to, drive-in society, it turns out that encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists is what gives a town vitality. One of the main rules of New Urbanism is to de-emphasize cars and try to meet people’s most basic needs within a five-minute walk, Roloff explained. That means when you plot and plan a town you don’t cover house fronts with huge garages, and you do include lots of sidewalks and paths. Add inexpensive bike rentals to that and the streets come alive with strollers and cyclists. That is what makes Seabrook so special — people take time to visit.

Even though Seabrook is built high on a bluff, many of the homes do not have an ocean view at all. But, the way the streets are angled, instead of a few houses getting a full view, many homes have partial views from their front porch or upper balcony. Some owners live there full-time. Others choose to rent their homes, large and small, through the Seabrook cottage rental program — and rental revenue has been up 25 percent each year for the past nine years.

Seabrook’s Present and Future

Photo by Asa Mathat

Photo by Asa Mathat

There are about 300 homes at Seabrook. It was crowned Sunset magazine’s “Idea Town” in 2013, and so much has happened since then. In addition to the homes, Seabrook has an established shopping district that continues to grow and already includes a bakery, a wine and cheese shop, fitness center, restaurants, home and gift store, pet store, spa, and there is even a grilled cheese and a pizza food truck!

A new Montessori School was added a couple of years ago for a few residents’ and employees’ children. Now the school has grown into a larger building, and North Coast Montessori is open to the public this fall. A new Town Hall opened last year as well. The event space is turning out to be a popular group destination and wedding venue. In 2015, 40 weddings were hosted at Seabrook. There is also an indoor pool and another being built, as well as bike trails, parks, and more public spaces.

Even though the town has been growing for the past 11 years at a steady rate, it is far from finished. The most coveted property at Seabrook is oceanfront, and there is about a mile of premier oceanside property being developed into three neighborhoods. But the buzz around town has been the brand new Farm District neighborhood. Situated farthest away from the center of town, it will feature larger homesites, parks, a windmill, pasture, water tanks and orchards, all surrounding a current farm. The first 19 homesites in the Farm District are being released in mid-October. People are already starting to ask about the Farm District for their future wedding plans and more.

Seabrook is clearly becoming a full-service destination development — a place where people love to visit, invest, and dream.

When You Go:

Learn more about Seabrook and book your vacation

Writer Gail Ayres contributed to this report.

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