Weber Thompson Designs $100M Pedestrian Friendly Community

By Kelly Sheehan, Online News Editor

NOVEMBER 03, 2006 — Hailey, Idaho — Weber + Thompson, an architecture, interior design and planning firm based in Seattle, has completed the master plan of Sweetwater, a 421-unit community on 22 acres. Sweetwater will be located here in Wood River Valley, about 12 miles from Sun Valley. Sweetwater Co. LLC and the Ketchum, Idaho-based Roth Development Group, the project’s general contractor, recently broke ground on the complex. Catherine Benotto, senior associate and director of planning for Weber +Thompson, led the project’s design team.

The $100-million community, which will feature a mix of condominiums, live/work units, townhouses, duplexes and carriage houses, has been designed to promote resident interaction. Residents will have access to a community building, which will feature a great room with fireplace, hobby room, computer room and a fitness facility. All mailboxes will be located in the community building in order to encourage interaction between residents. Green spaces and courtyards will surround 86 three-story buildings and a park will be located in the center of the community, where residents will be able to socialize.

“It was very important to us to create a sense of place in the community,” Benotto told MHN. “We even designed all parking and private garages off alleys and to the rear, so the streets will be kept pedestrian-friendly and uninterrupted.”

Benotto said Weber + Thompson’s design for Sweetwater was inspired by the local mining and agrarian architecture of Wood River Valley. “We related Sweetwater’s colors to the landscape,” she added. “We’re using aluminum siding—inspired by the area’s industrial buildings—on the live/work units, and we’re hoping to use reclaimed barn boards to build the community building.” To avoid the “cookie cutter” look that many new projects develop, Sweetwater’s buildings will feature a variety of roof heights, Benotto said.

Sweetwater Co. decided to develop the community because of the booming residential construction in the mountainous area, famous for its skiing and other outdoor recreational activities. But most developments have been for upper-income residents, forcing the working class to commute up to 70 miles to find affordable housing, according to Sweetwater Co.

The variety of housing options at Sweetwater, however, will likely attract middle-income residents, retirees and people looking for a second home, a Sweetwater Co. spokesperson said. Units will range in price from $260,000 to $650,000 and in size from 680 to more than 1,800 square feet.