Web hub provides one-stop guide to recovery issues and efforts in coastal Mississippi

Knight Foundation, Sun-Herald and CNU partner to support 3rd-anniversary updates to Mississippirenewal.com

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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI, August 25, 2008 – Three years after Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge obliterated whole communities on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, the story of the aftermath seems one of extremes. Worries over where and how to build and how much it will cost paralyze home owners and developers. Yet new businesses are flourishing and neighborhoods are reborn. Casinos are posting revenues beyond pre-Katrina levels. Yet employers are concerned they’ll lose workers without more affordable housing.

Mississippi’s struggles to re-imagine, then rebuild in a storm zone parallel the efforts of the country at large to face another perfect storm of crises in housing, finance, and environmental sustainability. In an important sense, Mississippi got to the future first, blown unprepared into a world where demands on individuals and governments increase as resources diminish.

The separate threads of all these stories weave through 11 municipalities and three counties along Mississippi’s coastline. Pulling them together, making sense of the complexity – or at least providing the components for an informed discussion – are the tasks taken on by a unique partnership: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Pulitzer-prize winning SunHerald newspaper, and the Congress for the New Urbanism.

The partners are sponsoring a web compilation of studies, newly released data, and original reporting on the recovery effort and its connections to broader national trends. The site (www.mississippirenewal.com) was first launched in October of 2005, five weeks after Hurricane Katrina. It has been the archive for products and follow-up projects of the Mississippi Renewal Forum, the weeklong design charrette organized by Andres Duany and CNU and funded, in part, by the Knight Foundation. Be sure to catch journalist Jason Miller's exclusive report on post-charrette planning progress, which remains uneven but impressive given the tremendous obstacles governments and community leaders face.

In this third-year anniversary week update, the site will provide context-setting information, analyses, and original reporting. The goal: To create a one-stop-shop for journalists and others interested in seeing the larger, more complex drama of Mississippi’s recovery and its implications for American communities facing their own challenges in coping with change.

As CNU CEO John Norquist summarizes in a fresh posting from the site: “Anyone who suggested that change would be easier in the Gulf because Katrina ‘wiped the slate clean,’ got it backwards. Reform is hard everywhere and even harder in the Gulf right now, but the social and economic payoff of staying committed to real renewal couldn’t be more worth it.”

Contact: Ben Brown – ben@placemakers.com; 828.508.5002

Photo: Cottages now ring the central public space of Cottage Square, developed by CNU member Bruce Tolar near downtown Ocean Springs, MS. The small cottages in the background are Mississippi Cottages, funded by FEMA and inspired by the original Katrina Cottage, which was designed by Marianne Cusato at October 2005 Mississippi Renewal Forum sponsored by CNU and the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal. The four current Mississippi Cottages will be joined by four more and will become home to residents this fall. Other cottages, including the original prototype, are also clustered around the square and will house a range of office tenants and a beauty salon. The site is served by a bus line. Photo by Bruce Tolar.