October 18, 2005
To help create a physical plan for its
ravaged coast, Mississippi state officials invited New Urbanist
Andres Duany, FAIA, to lead a charrette last week in Biloxi,
one of Hurricane Ritas hard-hit targets. Joining him
were more than 100 members of the Congress for the New Urbanism,
including transportation planners, environmentalists, code
writers, sociologists, and representatives of such large AE
firms as SOM, HOK, HDR, and UDA. Some teams dealt with regional
issues, and others visited the three-county areas 11
municipalities. The sessions focused on low-income development,
because, Barksdale said, Rich people take care of themselves.
Striving to create the kind of
Coast we want 20 years from now, says Leland Speed,
executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority,
the charrette offered a variety of suggestions including permanent
mobile homes featuring front porches and improved finishes;
a selection of house plans suited to local climate and culture;
more pedestrian-oriented commerical districts, downsized big
box retailers, and casinos better integrating street life.
Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr says, We will retain our Southern
history and culture. But [as for] things that werent
beautiful [in the first place], well let them fade into
history. The important thing, says Duany, is to create
such incentives as pre-permitting that will encourage developers
to follow smart growth principles.
The charrette left a number of thorny
issues for communities to decide for themselves: how to create
high-density streets that allow poor people to get along without
cars, how to build storm-resistant buildings without making
them unaffordable and inaccessible, and how to accommodate
behemoth casinos to the urban fabric of small towns.
A summary of the charrette will constitute
a major portion of a redevelopment report due on the Mississippi
Governors desk by December 31.