New Urbanism in the Post-Katrina Storm Zone

New Urbanists are leading the difficult planning and rebuilding effort in the Gulf

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Note: This report was created in August 2006 on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and will be updated periodically to reflect emerging news from the Gulf states. Last updated 2-23-07.

Read also about new urbanist planning and rebuilding efforts at the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

New Urbanist planners and architects have led the planning and rebuilding effort in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Although the rebuilding of communities continues to move frustratingly slowly, CNU members are helping Gulf residents lay the groundwork for a sustainable recovery through a number of succesful efforts ranging from plan implementation to zoning code reform to the design of Katrina Cottages and other affordable emergency housing of enduring character.

The effort got underway barely a month after the hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast when Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour formed the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal. The non-profit Commission chaired by former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale invited CNU to stage what might have been the biggest charrette in history – the Mississippi Renewal Forum – in Biloxi in mid-October. With CNU-co-founder Andres Duany leading some 200 planning and design specialists from the region and from around the world, the forum produced comprehensive plans for 11 communities and the state’s three coastal counties.

Ongoing follow-up work has led to the adoption of a new form-based code to enable coordinated neighborhood-based reconstruction in downtown Moss Point, MS and the development of form-based codes in cities such as Pass Christian and Gulfport, where tireless charrette-participant Mayor Brent Warr has said adopting the code will lead to valuable development that's ''faster, more profitable and better looking." Review the charrette day-by-day and view all the plans, reports, and news updates at mississippirenewal.com.

In Louisiana, a non-profit group formed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco – the Louisiana Recovery Authority – has provided planning models for the South Louisiana region and communities outside of New Orleans. New Urbanist firms headed by Peter Calthorpe, Andres Duany, and Ray Gindroz were assigned roles ranging from developing a sustainable regional vision, to crafting master plans for damaged cities, and publishing a pattern book to guide people in building housing, neighborhoods and towns at a greatly accelerated pace while remaining true to Louisiana values and tradition. Louisiana. Styles range from Louisiana Vernacular to Modern. Read all about this process .

In New Orleans, several New Urbanist firms are among the 15 teams leading neighborhood planning. In December 2006, New Orleans Times Picayune> art critic Doug MacCash described Andres Duany's "visionary" role in the city.

A particularly promising area of innovation for New Urbanist designers has been work to address the urgent need for replacement housing with small, affordable cottages inspired by Gulf traditions. After first debuting at the Mississippi Renewal Forum, a Katrina Cottage designed by Marianne Cusato became widely touted as a potential FEMA trailer alternative that would be sturdy in future storms and have lasting value both for individual owners and as a building block for neighborhoods.

Built cottages by various designers can now be found in Pass Christian, MS and Ocean Springs, MS where architect Bruce Tolar is creating a 20-unit cottage village. First Lady Laura Bush toured this Katrina Cottage Square on February 23, 2007. In August, NPR reported on the square's opening and residents touring a variety of "model home" cottages in a report titled "'People Want Something That's Going to Last." Source: NPR.org, August 30. Read about the full range of related Katrina Cottage housing efforts and Ocean Spring's Katrina Cottage Square and its role in demonstrating how cottages can be clustered in traditional mixed-use neighborhoods in which residents can take pride.

Plans to make cottage blueprints and parts packages available at Lowe's home improvement centers along the Gulf Coast will help keep Katrina Cottages an accessible and affordable option for people who need high-quality shelter quickly and can then consider options for expanding the homes down the road.