Selected Teams Bring Urbanist Experience to New Orleans Planning

Firms Bring Extensive Experience Stimulating Rebirth in Hurricane-Damaged Communities and Major Urban Centers

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New Orleans residents from across the city will hear presentations Tuesday evening from the 15 planning teams approved to lead neighborhood-based planning efforts as part of what the New Orleans Times Picayune calls the “most prominent neighborhood recovery and renewal planning effort in New Orleans.” Among them will be several teams with extensive experience using New Urbanist principles to revitalize neighborhoods in hurricane-damaged areas and major cities such as Washington D.C., Baton Rouge, St Petersburg, and Raleigh.

In selecting 15 firms from a field of 40 applicants for involvement in the Unified New Orleans Plan process funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, a Greater New Orleans Foundation panel selected several firms with strong ties to New Urbanism and deep experience with the kind of complicated, mixed-use big-city neighborhoods that abound in New Orleans. These firms include:

  • Duany Plater-Zyberk, the Miami-based firm formed by two CNU co founders: University of Miami Architecture School Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and urban designer Andres Duany, who built on experience planning for the reconstruction of Florida City after Hurricane Andrew to lead a series charrettes and planning efforts along the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The largest of these efforts, the Mississippi Renewal Forum, brought together more than 140 national and local planning professionals to develop plans for the 11 major cities and towns of coastal Mississippi. In April, Duany assembled more than 40 CNU planners for an all-volunteer charrette for the Gentilly section of New Orleans at the request of Gentilly residents and city councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.
  • HDR/HOK, a joint-team steered by HDR vice-president James Moore and Steve Schukraft, a former HOK planner who heads HDR’s Tampa planning office. Moore and Schukraft joined Duany at CNU’s Mississippi Renewal Forum charrette in October, with Moore leading a team that developed renewal plans for Gulfport and Schukraft leading the team that created plans for Moss Point. Debra Hempel, logistics coordinator for the Mississippi Renewal charrette, is now with HDR's Tampa planning office, and will participate in the New Orleans effort.
  • Goody Clancy, the Boston-based architecture and planning firm that has won seven CNU Charter Awards for work that exemplifies the principles of the Charter for the New Urbanism. These projects include this year’s Boston Smart Growth Corridor Plan, which aims to coordinate improved train service and station-area development to serve some of Boston’s poorest residents. The firm has also earned Charter Awards for two Hope VI redevelopments of troubled public housing projects in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
  • H3 Studio, a St. Louis firm, which won a CNU Charter Award in 2002 for the Confluence Master Plan: A Conservation, Heritage, and Recreation Corridor in St. Louis.

Firms involved in the Mississippi Renewal Forum Charrette including HDR, DPZ, and HOK have been setting the pace both for comprehensive planning and follow-up progress in the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast. After working side-by-side with Mayor Brent Warr late into the night at the October charrette, HDR has built a productive relationship with Warr and other officials in Gulfport, the largest city on the Mississippi Coast. Gulfport commissioned the creation of a New Urbanist SmartCode and Warr and his new development director Larry Jones are touting its potential to guide the rebuilding to create neighborhoods of character and lasting value. Under HOK’s direction, Moss Point is also developing a new form-based code to guide development. City leaders are currently seeking public input on the Downtown Renewal Plan and SmartCode in a series of public meetings. "We are looking to shape the entire city into a walking community with parks, shopping, and restaurants in key locations throughout the city," Mayor Xavier Bishop recently told the Mississippi Press of Pascagoula.

And similar steps are in store for communities in Louisiana where DPZ led three charrettes for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, starting in Lake Charles and moving eastward. As Matt Dellenger has reported in the Oxford American, the plans generated at these charrettes have been warmly embraced by the communities”

DPZ held their Lake Charles charrette in February, and over the course of the week, the Mayor [Randy Roach] grew so enthusiastic that he planned a city council meeting to coincide with Duany’s final presentation to the public. The council voted, on the spot, to endorse all of the firm’s recommendations…

Mayor Roach, before rewarding the team with keys to the city, spoke for the record. “God in His infinite wisdom has a way of positioning communities and people to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Andrés, you are a friend to us because you have told us what we needed to hear.” Four months before, he noted, the Civic Center was a shelter for more than three thousand Hurricane Katrina refugees. They all had to flee again when Rita came. “I don’t think that anybody back then would have thought we’d be having this discussion today. You will go on to different places. But I guarantee you, you will not do more for any community than you have done for us.”
The next two Louisiana charrettes, in Vermilion and St. Bernard Parishes, ended much the same way. DPZ’s plans were adopted within days.

In addition to work in hurricane-damaged communities, the New Urbanist teams all have extensive neighborhood-based planning experience in major cities. For DPZ, this experience includes creating the downtown master plan for Baton Rouge, a job that led to the firm’s hiring by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, along with plans for the hearts of Providence, RI, Sarasota, FL and other cities. The HDR/HOK team has led planning efforts for the H Street NE and Upper Wisconsin Avenue corridors in Washington D.C., and for neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Richmond, Raleigh, St. Petersburg and Omaha.

Read more about the Unified Plan process and Tuesday’s meeting to begin matching technical assistance teams with neighborhoods.