While most of the country has shifted focus, the Gulf Coast is far from putting the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina & Rita behind them. The Mississippi Renewal Forum, a weeklong charette hosted by Biloxi, MS, wrapped up on Monday as teams of architects, planners, code experts, and public officials presented plans for rebuilding the coastal areas of Mississippi. Led by New Urbanist Andres Duany, the teams put forth ideas for reconstructing and revitalizing the eleven major areas affected on the Gulf Coast. Some highlights include options for eco-tourism in Gautier, a revitalized street grid in Biloxi, and creative forms for connectivity, green areas, and civic gathering spaces in all of the communities involved.

Leading up to the forum, many were skeptical if these 100-plus professionals could produce strategies capable of respecting the local character and color that has shaped the region for generations. At the conclusion of the week however, these “architects on steroids,” as described by James Barksdale (chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal) delivered proposals that exceeded the expectations of the project and locals alike.

As declared prior to the start of the charette, the plans and ideas put together were only suggestions for the communities to consider; now the challenge lies with individuals and local governments. It is likely that some fiscal justification will undermine the rebuilding of many truly colorful neighborhoods, putting both architectural and cultural diversity at risk. On Tuesday, the Gulfport City Council adopted a resolution expressing support for moving casinos further inland for the purposes of reclaiming badly needed income. Hopefully, smart planning objectives will balance the economic realities motivating the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast.

More information about the event:

+ The New York Times
+ Congress For New Urbanism