From Governing Magazine: Mississippi's Urbanist Odyssey

Governing Magazine's Chris Swope spent a week or so on the MIssissippi Coast and did some admirable reporting. Swope casts a wider-than-normal net, moving beyond Biloxi and encountering forward-thinking elected officials such as Mayor Connie Moran of Ocean Springs and Mayor Brent Warr of Gulfport (the largest city on the Mississippi coast) who are seeking to capitalize on the New Urbanist visions and resources that have been in ample supply in the state since the huge CNU charrette last October. Long Beach emerges as a typical coastal town -- not a casino mecca like Biloxi nor an artist haven like Bay St. Louis or Ocean Springs -- that is wrestling with questions of whether to accept conventional development or to strive to build a more livable, connected, and enduring community.

Mississippi’s Urbanist Odyssey
The ravaged Gulf Coast has a rare opportunity to recreate itself. But it has to decide what it wants to look like.

By CHRISTOPHER SWOPE

Q&A with the author

13th Floor: A week on the Gulf

One evening recently, the downtown business owners o Long Beach, Mississippi, met with local elected officials in cramped school board chamber to talk about urban planning Just outside in the sticky night, a small village of FEM trailers was parked on the grass. A few miles away, Jef Davis Avenue, as close to a Main Street as you’ll find in th Gulf Coast sprawl of Long Beach, looked as if Hurricane Katrina had blown through onl yesterday. Shells of gutted buildings still stood in some places, but closer to the water nothing was left but a ragtag army of beaten oak trees and concrete slabs where house used to stand

Planner George Carbo started the meeting by describing the sort of downtown that Smart Code, the zoning credo of the New Urbanist planning movement, would make possible. It would encourage exactly the thing that current zoning in Long Beach doesn’t allow: compact development along the sidewalk with a mix of shops, restaurants and apartments or condos above them. Joe DeFazio, a member of the Long Beach planning commission, picked up the torch there. “The downtown should be pedestrian-friendly,” he said. “We want everyone to park once and walk to several things.”

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Comments

Good work

Great to see a prestigious source take an interest in the big picture in Mississippi, although it's sad to see that the region remains in limbo.

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