New Wave Neighborhood

Small-town charm and whitewater adventure are next-door neighbors at South Main, a community on the banks of Colorado’s Arkansas River

Pro kayaker Jed Selby plunged into uncharted waters when he and his sister Katie purchased 41.5 undeveloped acres on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado, back in 2003. At the time, Selby didn’t fancy himself a land developer. “I just wanted to be able to walk from a bar to a wave—and maybe build a few houses,” he says. 

The site was perfect for that. Just a short walk from Buena Vista’s historic main street, it offered excellent river frontage on a “sweet spot” of the Arkansas that’s one of the better kayaking spots in the country, according to Selby. 

His simple plan quickly evolved. “Katie and I started thinking about places we’ve lived that we really liked, and it was all the older places with tree-lined streets and sidewalks, where we could walk to everything,” he says. “We wondered, ‘Why don’t they build this stuff anymore?’” 

For the past nine years, the siblings have been building it at South Main, a pedestrian-friendly community with a commitment to conscientious land use and green building practices—all adjacent to a new, world-class whitewater park.

Nearly 50 buildings have gone up since 2007, ranging from single-family homes, row houses and live/work spaces to a restaurant, clothing boutique, art gallery and even a private school—most owned and operated by residents.  

And with just 50 of 500 units built, that’s just the beginning. The Surf Chateau, a 20-room boutique hotel on the river, opens this summer, and five new residences and a farm-to-table restaurant, supplied by South Main’s newly purchased 274-acre organic farm, are also on the drawing boards. Selby hopes to add a riverfront restaurant, rafting company, yoga studio and climbing gym soon, too. 

While residents aren’t all young pro athletes, this is undeniably a place for outdoor enthusiasts. “People find a way to live here because they love the lifestyle,” Selby says, “and it’s resulted in a neat entrepreneurial vibe.” One inspired, perhaps, by the founders themselves.  

New Urbanism in the Mountains

South Main president and co-founder Jed Selby shares the principles that have shaped the community’s eclectic—and authentic—aesthetic:  

IN-HOUSE DESIGN South Main’s own design/build company customizes each home to fit its owner’s style and budget—while adheringto the community’s design guidelines.   

TRADITION, WITH A TWIST Though South Main’s style, which ranges from Victorian to Craftsman, may seem eclectic, “it’s all under the veil of traditional architecture,” Selby says. A few modern touches keep the look feeling fresh, while the consistent use of galvanized metal roofing and stone excavated from the site “ties it all together.” 

SENSE OF PLACE “It’s important for us to maintain a tie to the spirit of old Colorado towns,” Selby says, “so if a client wants a Greene & Greene-style Craftsman house, we’ll retool it with a nod to Victorian style.”   

SUSTAINABILITY The community is walkable, building footprints tend to be compact and structures exceed ENERGY STAR 3.0 guidelines, but there’s more to South Main’s “green” philosophy: “Traditional architecture is sustainable because the less a building is a stamp of some certain point in time, the longer it takes to become outdated,” Selby says. “And buildings that are loved for a long time don’t get torn down.”

Categories: High-Country Communities