VIDEO: Alys Beach - Building a New Urbanist Coastal Community in Northwest Florida - 30A

VIDEO: Alys Beach – Building a New Urbanist Coastal Community in Northwest Florida

It takes time to build a town. Located in Northwest Florida along Scenic Highway 30A, they first broke ground on Alys Beach in 2004. Today, nearly 20 years later, they’re, well, they’re almost halfway done. Of course, in order to attract residents, you need to build a few nice homes. Check. But it takes more than homes to make a town. You also need amenities and shops and restaurants, cafes, communal areas, pools, and parks. That job falls on town architects, Erik Vogt and Marieanne Khoury-Vogt. Erik and Marieanne were here that day when the ceremonial shovel scooped up that first sand, and they’re still here today, 20 years later, helping to shepherd the architectural vision and vibe of this extraordinary coastal community.

“We first moved into our home as full-time residents of Alys Beach in April of 2006. For us, it was nothing more exciting to kind of be in a home we had designed. We saw living here as being instrumental in helping design a new town and it was terribly exciting for us. We didn’t necessarily have a town center, but we did have Fonville. It was the gathering hub of Alys Beach for a very long time, and it’s where we got to know new neighbors who are moving in,” said Marieanne.

Discover the beauty, architecture, and vibrant community of Alys Beach in this captivating video tour:

Alys Beach was founded on what is known as New Urbanist design principles. Born on Scenic Highway 30A and nearby Seaside, Florida, New Urbanism is a style of town planning that aims to create more walkable and more livable communities. It’s not just about being more environmentally sustainable, although that’s a big part of it, it’s about living healthier, happier, and more meaningful lives. New Urbanism emphasizes creating pedestrian-friendly street scapes, as well as establishing a fine balanced mix of residential, commercial, and public spaces that encourage people to walk, bike, and well, just to spend a little more quality time with friends and family. Ultimately, it’s a movement to design new towns and neighborhoods with people first and foremost in mind. Aesthetically, Alys Beach’s stark white architectural beauty was inspired by the Island Estates of Bermuda, fused together with courtyard home styles found in Antigua, Guatemala.

“The weather is beautiful here, and even in the extreme heat of the summer, as long as a courtyard is well designed, as long as air flows through it, then it becomes a natural extension of your living area. One could retreat then to one’s courtyard in complete privacy, and that was really attractive,” Marieanne explained.

Alys Beach’s rapidly growing town center fans out in a semi-circle around a large public amphitheater. You’ll find a number of boutique shops and restaurants here including Fonville Press Market Cafe which sells groceries, sundries, and prepared meals. There’s also Raw & Juicy, Charlie’s Delights, Barefoot Princess, Summer Story, Holiday Cafe, Parasol, The Alys Shop, The Citizen Restaurant, Neat Bottle Shop and Tasting Room, Merit by Willow, Babette, and George’s, a now iconic 30A restaurant that’s been a staple here since Alys Beach’s barren beginnings.

“I feel like the energy and excitement around Alys just never seem to fade. It’s just continued to grow. We’ve seen new restaurants and new shops. There are just so many amazing events in this community to partake in and something new every time you come. It’s kind of the same way at Merit, we’ve always got some new pieces whenever you stop in, so we’re always trying to keep it fresh and updated, just like the community,” said Christina Kelley of Merit by Willow.

The focal point of Alys Beach’s New Town Center will be a mixed-use condominium called The Della, featuring retail and restaurant space on the ground level with residential space above. In addition to Bermuda and Antigua, Guatemala, the vision of Moule and Polyzoide’s design draws additional aesthetic and functional inspirations from turn-of-the-century British and Venetian Seaside resorts. The final two mixed-use condominiums to complete the Town Center will be The Dannelly and The Varian, Designed by Michael G. Ember Architects, The Dannelly and The Varian will feel cohesive with the rest of the Town Center, while also evoking a few Cuban and Caribbean vibes.

“And amazing opportunities that I feel that Erik and I have been exposed to has been the opportunity to collaborate with so many extraordinary architects. There is the hand at work of many different designers that have influenced the growth and development of Alys Beach,” Marieanne explained. “We all were working on the ideas that were going to coalesce into a Town Center. With a team, we had created a styrofoam model of the very first street, eight homes on one side, eight homes on the other. We all knew and could aspire to what it was eventually going to be.”

Of course, gorgeous homes, shops, and public spaces don’t mean a lot if there’s no one around to bask in all of this beauty. And so, to help foster a unique and vibrant sense of community, Alys Beach routinely hosts events and activities for its residents, vacationing guests, and the public in general. Outdoor concerts and movies, comedy and theater performances, programs for kids and families, 4th of July fireworks, Alys Beach Crafted, a super popular 38 wine festival, and Digital Graffiti, a surreal projection art festival that draws artistic talents and gawkers from around the globe. But while many of the town’s events and activities are open to the public, a few precious perks are reserved exclusively for the homeowners here, including the exquisite beach club in Alys Beach. This multi-story Gulf front oasis offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico from each of its three levels. From sunrise to sunset, the Beach Club was designed to perfectly poise its guests along the horizon line from each of its stunning pools and terraces.

“We had a vision for an amenity triangle. The amenity triangle was our current Caliza pool and restaurant, Zuma fitness center, and then the Beach Club. So then we brought in Hart Howerton from San Francisco, New York to help us to create this special place within Alys. Three stories on one side of the beach club, we oriented that all to the east side of the beach club so we could get those westerly sunsets, and that was very purposeful. And then we also, with the design of the plaza, it only accidentally complimented the beach club,” said Tom Dodson, Vice President of Sales.

This is exactly where you want to hang out with friends and family. This folks is the precise moment when you know you’ve made it. New neighborhoods and residential buildings are sprouting up around the beach club on the south side of 30A, including The Lena, The August, The Nora, and Somersaisle Terrace, On the north side of 30A, the focus is on Alys Beach’s 20-acre Nature Preserve with trails and boardwalk that quietly wind through wetlands and along leaf pine forest. Here, a new town amenity known as The Silva will soon take shape along the curve of this beautiful park. The Silva’s open-air indoor-outdoor design will feature a pool with a terrace bar and cafe as well as a pavilion and an event lawn for family gatherings, including a kids’ camp. If you’re not one of the fortunate, exclusive few who are lucky enough to call Alys Beach their permanent home, don’t worry, you still have options.

“With the merging Town Center, there’s a great introduction for people to come and visit. When you are in the area, we always hear people say architecture always draws people in, so come on into the sales center and let us show you around,” said Tom Dodson.

If you really want to get a taste of the good life, you can even rent a select number of incredible vacation homes here through Alys Beach’s exclusive rental program. Hashtag goals. Building a town is not a matter to be rushed. It takes time to build homes and businesses and parks and pools. It takes time to find the perfect personality to manage a long-term vision, run all those shops and restaurants, and greet guests when they come by for a visit or vacation.

It takes time for people to learn about a new town, to finally decide to visit, and then sometimes even much later, to make the life-altering decision to call that town home. In 2024, the town of Alys Beach, Florida will celebrate its 20th anniversary. I predict that in the years ahead, Alys Beach will become one of the most talked about, photographed, and videoed beach towns in all the world. After all, it’s only a matter of time.