One thing’s certain about the up-and-coming Kaiya Beach Resort, tucked away off 30A on the Florida Panhandle and overlooking the Gulf of Mexico: It’s got a pedigree. 

Kaiya’s following in the New Urbanist footsteps of fifteen planned Panhandle communities that came before it. 

Seaside was first out of the gate in the early 1980s. Developed by Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, it’s a twentieth-century community based on nineteenth-century town planning. It was followed by similarly scaled developments and resorts, each upping the design ante for residents and vacationing Southerners alike. Among them: Seacrest, Rosemary Beach, and WaterColor. 

In 2003, at the Bermuda-inspired Alys Beach, Duany hand-picked Erik Vogt and Marieanne Khoury-Vogt as town architects. Now the couple is working on the architectural language of Kaiya, just west of Alys Beach—but a resort unto itself. Sure, its 173 buildings will be bright white, but Kaiya offers its own distinct vibe, and still glances back briefly over its shoulder. 

“We took the simple architecture of Alys Beach and stripped it down and infused it with wood wall siding so the buildings are half wood and half masonry,” Khoury-Vogt says. “There’s a synthesis of those two elements that are unique to Kaiya, though they’re not a wholesale invention of any sort. We’re working off of nearby precedents.” 

Kaiya will be about a quarter the size of Alys Beach. On its north side are 26 acres; two acres on the south side form a strand leading to the beach. A master plan by Mauricio Castro and his firm, Place Alliance, was tweaked gently. “Place Alliance worked for two years establishing the parameters for the overall site plan, and then worked with us for organic changes that needed to be made over time,” Khoury-Vogt says. 

The majority of the homes will be on the property’s north side, though the strand leading to a beach house and the gulf will be lined with 12 villas along Kaiya Beach Lane. Each villa comes with a terrace overlooking the lane. “That means a very interesting stroll to the beach house on the southernmost point, with its infinity-edged pool,” says developer Jason Romair. “You’ll arrive at the entrance to the beach, and it’s not only grand, but elegant—with generous steps down.” 

Building lots are larger than those at Alys Beach, which assures that Kaiya’s residents will be able to spread out a little more. “It takes advantage of the outdoors with porches and pools and courtyards, for living expansively – and for entertaining,” Khoury-Vogt says. 

Kaiya is destined not to be a town like Alys Beach and Seaside, but instead a resort with its own inn, club membership, and retail. “It shares their DNA, but it has no town center,” says Vogt. “It’s about the owner experience between the inn, the beach house and the concierge services.” 

Development will take place over the next five years, though a model home is open now and six homes are currently under construction, with five already sold. The beach house will be completed in the second quarter of next year, and the inn will be finished by the second quarter of 2021. “There will also be ten Mews homes,” Romair says. “Seven of those ten are sold.” 

After a career of renovating homes in the Uptown District of New Orleans, Romair’s been dreaming about improving on what came before his resort on 30A. “He’s been thinking about porches, so you can sit there and engage the neighbors,” says Khoury-Vogt. “That’s something Seaside doesn’t have.” 

Chances are, by the time his architects finish, Romair will have more than just porches to brag about.

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