BlogJanuary 2021Mark Schnell: Our Urban Designer Shares His Vision

Mark Schnell: Our Urban Designer Shares His Vision

Cinnamon Shore Benefits From An Expert At Master Planning

The urban designer for Cinnamon Shore, Mark Schnell of Seagrove, Florida, recently reminisced about how Cinnamon Shore started and how it’s delivered flawlessly on the master plan he drafted back in 2006.

From a blank canvas of empty shoreline in 2006 to an authentic, beachside neighborhood today, the community at North is complete! Schnell values the role each element now plays, from parks and pools to retail row, the Town Center, and each condo building and residence. Every turret, porch, and lookout tower contribute to the overall look and feel of the community.

“The design code is one of the more magical things to me,” Mark says. “It’s big and it’s daunting, but, man, does it work.”

 As Cinnamon Shore South rises based on another masterful master plan, Mark shared more about his philosophy of New Urbanism and what it brings to the Texas Coast―now and in the years to come.

In The Beginning...

Developer Jeff Lamkin sought Mark's expertise in turning the grassy, dune-fronted tract of Gulf-side property on Mustang Island into an upscale coastal village--something never before seen on the Texas Coast. Knowing of Mark's reputation and his affiliation with the New Urban movement that gave rise to such lauded resort communities as Seaside and Watercolor on Florida's Scenic Highway 30A, Jeff brought him to Texas and showed him the formless acres that would become Cinnamon Shore.


Cinnamon Shore Land 2006

Cinnamon Shore, circa 2006


"When I first set eyes on it back in '06, I knew what we could do with it, but I was curious to see other parts of town," Mark says. He toured the area to familiarize himself with the beloved fishing village where generations of Texas beachgoers have come. He appreciated its charms but recognized that the development on the island and of the town had happened sporadically and without a uniform plan. "I wasn’t seeing a cohesive community," he says.

As an advocate for New Urban design, he set to work to create a neighborhood that harkens back to a time before urban sprawl -- when homes mixed with nearby businesses for work and everyday needs, when neighbors called out to one another from front porches, when broad sidewalks allowed for worry-free walks along roadways, and when green spaces provided vistas and open air for mingling. "There wasn't this type of community anywhere on the Texas coast," Mark says. 

He created a master plan that provided all of those things. And by 2020, the community fulfills his original vision.

A Daunting Strategy

Whether a resort community or everyday development inland across America, this type of New Urban neighborhood is a challenge to develop, and Mark credits Jeff Lamkin and the team at Cinnamon Shore with sticking to the plan. "Taking the land plan from paper to implementation takes a lot of work. It’s very hard to do,” Mark says. “It takes kind of a team of magicians to pull it off.”

But living near Seaside himself and working on similar communities, he knows it can be done. "Seaside shook the development and design world because it was evidence that from scratch you could build a walkable mixed use place that had a town center, that had many of the facets of life in one place," Mark explains. By integrating private homes and the elements of the public realm, such as shops and restaurants, parks and pools, there's a way to build an authentic community. 

"The magic is found where the public realm meets the private realm," he says. He points out parks as an example. In typical cities today, parks are off to the side, a place you have to go to and park and get out to experience. In New Urban design and at Cinnamon Shore, homes overlooking pocket parks and larger green spaces such as the Great Lawn. "Here, every single park has a role, every street has a role," he says.

Similarly, the promenade and pavilion at Lake Colby offer everyone in the neighborhood a scenic spot to walk and gather, and homes built all along the lake enjoy the landmark and views over it. "It's one of the things I'm most proud of to this day," Mark says. 

overhead of lake colby


At Cinnamon Shore, the goal was to mix ingredients, rather than spreading them out and connecting them by a highway, as most development has done for the past few decades. "It's all about integrating the elements of living," he says. From Town Center, where people hear live music and watch movies, to the Great Lawn where guys throw a frisbees, to the two lakes where people can stroll and the coffee shop on Market Street, the places at Cinnamon Shore bring people together.  "We're trying to create those moments, and they’re shared moments, something all your guests and family can share and enjoy," Mark explains. 

Illustrating his point, just watch people walk under the trellis as they first come to Kiera's Pool and take in the view across the infinity edge to Lake Gavin. "A lot people stop in their tracks, and that’s by design," Mark says. 

kiera's pool at Cinnamon Shore

And while the beach is the biggest draw, Mark says he learned from Seaside's visionary Robert Davies, that the trick is to develop a place where people enjoy coming and want to stay that not necessarily overlooks the water itself. At Cinnamon Shore, every design decision, every line of site, every detail contributes to a community where people simply want to be--a place where they really don't want to leave.

Private Realm Homes Play A Critical Role

Mark's master plan invites homeowners to help make the magic happen. As they build or buy an existing beach home, he hopes they recognize that adhering the design code contributes to the overall aesthetic at Cinnamon Shore. "Each and every house contributes back to the community," he says. 

Code requirements force architects to consider elements such as wrap-around porches and to avoid blank facades by adding more windows. The plan designates certain spots that require some kind of turret or tower, and when homeowners and their architects comply, they help fulfill the charm and character that people experience when they glance down the streets of Cinnamon Shore. "For homeowners who have a property with a tower, you’re helping create that view," Mark says.

The code calls for homes of different sizes and shapes, and they mingle with charming condo buildings, town homes, and retail buildings that all share a common Southern cottage style and a color palette designed by his wife, Paige Schnell, a renowned interior designer. “It's not always easy working with the design code," Mark says. “I've always said to people, 'Stick with me on this, and you’ll like the results.” Looking at the original plan from 2006 and an overhead drone photo of the community today, it's easy to see that Cinnamon Shore has realized the dream.

before and after at Cinnamon Shore North

The Master Plan, 2006, Fully Executed By 2020


The Next Chapter

Now, new families building at Cinnamon Shore South have a chance to take part of the next chapter of the Cinnamon Shore vision. Using many of the same elements from the community now known as Cinnamon Shore North, Mark also experiment and add new ones to the plan at South. The lakeside resort pool has infinity edges on three sides, a sun deck, cabanas, and a bar and restaurant. Charming cottages line a bridge over the 7-acre lake. A one-mile walking trail gives people a place to stroll, and a new Town Center will give them a destination. "That's critical," says Mark, noting that New Urbanism requires walkability but needs to give neighbors a place to go. At the coast, the place is often the beach itself, with the dune crossover receiving special attention, with seating areas and a graceful arch over the dunes.

This new expansion of the Cinnamon Shore lifestyle has swiftly taken shape, with first families spending the summer of 2020 at their beach houses and new phases selling rapidly. Mark's master plan for South enjoys more acreage to implement the basics of New Urbanism. It will ultimately be about three and a half the size of the North. 

cinnamon shore south 2020

Cinnamon Shore South Taking Shape, Summer 2020

With every design decision at North, at South and at any future development that's part of the Cinnamon Shore community, Mark says one question drives the planning and execution: "How can we create the best place?"

With new property just across Highway 361 along the bay on Mustang Island and a new acquisition of Gulf-front land adjacent to the original Cinnamon Shore, Jeff Lamkin promises more of the same mindset and goals for the aspirational and inspirational communities he's developing here on Mustang Island. He's brought Mark Schnell's experience and firm belief in New Urbanism to the Texas Coast, and the kind of neighborhoods Cinnamon Shore represents lends a new kind of casual sophistication and style to the Lone Star State shoreline. 

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Published by Jennifer Chappell Smith
Thursday, January 28, 2021

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