Tuesday, June 20, 2006

greetings from hampton beach

I am in New Hampshire for a sandsculpture contest. Every time I visit another beach community I can't help but compare it to the one I call home....

I have a room at the Hillcrest Inn, a smallish mom & pop run operation right across the street from the beach. The waterfront here is teaming with activity. Big wide beach that is covered up with people on weekdays even though some schools don't shut down for summer break until later this week, fronted by a parking lot. (Parking lots may not be pretty, but they are functional and they don't block the waterview.) The shops and restaurants beneath my 3rd story room are thriving. I understand many of them shut down for the winter but it looks like they more than make up for it in the summer. Things are a bit old and maybe a bit trashy by some standards (no trace of a common color palette here!) but the place is really quite charming and there is lots of stuff for folks to do right here -- it sure looks like everyone is having a great time.

I think the SPI developers who say what they are doing is good for business are feeding the island merchants a line. Walls of mostly-empty condos may increase the tax base but they are not going to keep your favorite local restaurant from closing its doors. On the other hand we have residents who argue that SPI needs to be prettier to keep attracting visitors -- and I think they are feeding us a line as well. Certainly we want to keep upgrading the appearance of streets and common areas as funds allow, but businesses that cater to our guests must have plenty of latitude to present services and products in a way that will attract the visitors we have, not the visitors we wish we could have.

No one will dispute that our biggest draws are our beaches and the waters that surround us. Preserving their natural beauty and access to viewing and using them should be top priority. After that, I think we must do our best to preserve the funky beachy charm that attracted so many of us to SPI in the first place.

At last week's CPAC meeting we were asked to describe or show photos of what we considered to be quality development/construction. I chose a photo of a beach access sign/planter - simple and elegant and overflowing with native flowers that attract butterflies and birds. Clayton chose the Sapphire condos because (and I am paraphrasing here) "it will be self-contained with recreation facilities and restaurants and spa and the guests can enjoy a wonderful vacation without ever leaving the site."

Is this the future of SPI? A series of megaliths that capture and retain visitors while the shops and restaurants that reflect our community's history and culture slowly strangle? I sure hope not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course it will. That is why having Clayton and a bunch of realtors heading up a "business association" is so pitifully phony. Our local restaurants and retail business will wither under this vision as will the tourism industry. Thre are many, many examples of communities around the country which have had this experience. The question is: Why have so many business guys been sucked in by these fast talkers?
The business association should be led not by realtors or developers, but by retailers and restaurant owners.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are both retailers and restaurant owners involved in the LMBA. Many who have small businesses don't have the time (as retired people may) to get more involved in the LMBA, however, their input as well as their membership is always welcomed in that group.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You apparently missed the point I was trying to make.The point is it is LED by developers and realtors and those are its spokesmen. Lucinda's point and mine is they are selling a bill of goods to the retailers, restaurant people and those who depend on tourism because if the vision of the developers and realtors is realized, the business community and tourist industry will dry up like it has done in many other resorts.It would be better if the
retailers,etc. started their own business group focusing only on their own common interests which are not the same as developers and realtors.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, is clayton hiring?
allways wanted to be a blackjack dealer!
Gotta love his "careful what you wish for coment"
That street runs BOTH ways...wink wink nod nod....

9:25 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I just got back from Maine and have two observations. First, everything is small and compact, since the downtown areas have been built since about 1780. A gift shop or even a bank might only we 40 feet wide. By the way, some of those funky cafes (with great local micro-brew!) make millions in just three months of the year, perhaps on no more than 15 tables.

Second, while many of these compact businesses are colonial white or Cape Cod shake (wood shingles), the profusion of colors is truly interesting ... shocking pinks, yellows, and oranges. It really is all about the architecture, in my humble opinion.

Except for a few places on SPI, there really is no resident architecture expect for a few Tiki houses. Bold post-modernist cubism (Bau-House) or a feeble attempt at Italianate "Tex-Mex ranch" seems to dominate. To reiterate, it's all about the architecture.

Does anyone recall the "vision thing" done by a previous SPI contractor, where there were pictures of small, 40-foot retail units fronted by maple trees and walkways? That was just like Camden Maine or Hampton Beach.

The only problem is, that's just not South Padre Island!

P.s., the sidewalks up north are truly horrendous, since the ice and snow chews them up and all the huge trees buckle them pretty bad. A real nice touch was the "YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS" crossings, though. That's right, if you crossed the road (no jay-walking), traffic would stop, no need for a crossing signal. Being a Texan, I could not resist doing the Hokey Pokey and watch the traffic stop and start with a just a wiggle of my big toe... /Sam

12:04 PM  

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