Mississippi Rebuilding
BackgroundIn the NewsConnect With OthersHome

Current Ideas

Cottages become a growth industry

Governor's Commission report

Final team reports

January 18, 2007
Cities in Transition

August 23, 2006
Katrina Plus One
The Katrina Cottage Story

April 26, 2006

Six Months of Progress

January 16, 2006

Affordable Houses Address Gulf Needs

January 11, 2006

Katrina Cottage Unveiled

December 19, 2005
An Abundance of Follow-Up
Moss Point Mini-Charrette

December 3, 2005
CNU Teams Return

November 17, 2005
Final Team Reports Are Released

October 18, 2005
Journal: A Tremendous Start

October 17, 2005
Journal: Time's Up
Team Presentations

October 16, 2005
Journal: Community Input
Draft Community Plans
Architectural Designs

October 15, 2005
Journal: Plans Emerge

October 14, 2005
Journal: Focus on Design
Draft Community Plans

October 13, 2005
Journal: Teams Visit Communities
Draft Goals and Objectives

October 12, 2005
Journal: Renewal Forum Begins

Governor Enlists CNU

GIS Database

Thursday, October 13 - The Mississippi Renewal Forum ventures beyond its Isle of Capri home base today, as multi-disciplinary teams travel out into the eleven coastal communities most heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina and witness, first-hand, the rebuilding challenges that must be overcome.

This follows a full day of preparation Wednesday, as an estimated 500 people - a standing room only crowd - gathered to hear Gov. Haley Barbour's introductory address and his urging that this be the first time in the state's history where recovery from a major catastrophe is "done right."

Mississippi has suffered four significant disasters in its history, Barbour explained. After the Civil War, the state received no help and did not recover until after World War II. After the 1927 flood, the federal government tried to help the state through the efforts of the Hoover Commission, but the Great Depression intervened. After Camille in 1969, "it was business as usual," Barbour said. "They were building service stations on the beach two months later. This is our fourth chance, and I'm determined that we are not going to miss that chance."

The crowd included 110 experts in planning, architecture and land development from across the nation assembled by the event's coordinating partner, the Congress for the New Urbanism. Joining them were over 300 local officials, planners, architects and state and federal officials to begin generating ideas, images, plans, codes, and other tools to help communities rebuild. Specifically addressing the out of state experts, Barbour said: "We need your help and we appreciate it. We will be eternally grateful."

Thirty years from now, people are going to say of those who were in charge after Katrina, "They got it. They understood. They did what had to be done," Barbour said. "You are going to have as much to do with whatever is said [in the future] as anybody."

Referring to the word "charrette," a term often used by the new urbanists to describe their intense sessions of collaborative planning work, Barbour joked that he had "never heard the word before, let along tried to spell it." He added that the forum taking place here is only one of many mechanisms planned for citizen and expert input on the reconstruction effort, including extensive town hall meetings and special studies.

The first town hall meeting for residents will take place on October 19, a day after the Renewal Forum ends, said James Barksdale, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal, which is partnering with CNU to put on the forum. The commission is not a governmental agency and is funded from private sources. That offers the advantage of not having to wait for legislative approval - which slowed down decision making after Camille and Hurricane Andrew in Florida. The Forum itself is largely funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an independent foundation that works to improve the quality of life in 26 U.S. communities, including Biloxi, where the Knight brothers owned newspapers in their lifetimes. Biloxi is a Knight community, and Knight Ridder Inc. owns the Sun Herald.

The CNU team members "are here to work with you," Barksdale told local officials. "They are not here to tell you anything. If you don't like what they say, don't listen to them. But they have done this hundreds of time before." These points were similar to Barbour's statement about the commission headed by Barksdale. "The Commission's role is advisory, it has no authority to impose any decision on anybody."

The forum participants should place top priority on designing solutions for the middle class and poor, Barksdale said. "Start with them - they are the ones that will be most affected by the new flood lines." He was referring to new standards set by FEMA that will affect lending practices. Barksdale added that local public officials, many of whom lost their homes, have been making heroic efforts on behalf of citizens. It's difficult to do long-range planning under these circumstances, but it is also critical, he said. "It's the worst time to do this, it's the best time to do this," Barksdale said.

The Renewal Forum is unprecedented in its size, Barksdale said. "It's 10 times larger than any such planning exercise ever attempted." He added that the effort would be controversial. "You can't get a group together of this size - except maybe on motherhood - without controversy."

The keynote addresses concluded with design leader Andrés Duany, who explained what to expect from the many new urban participants.

View Slideshow