Today, teams of architects and designers will unveil their plans for rebuilding Mississippi towns ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the first product coming out of the state's Mississippi Renewal Forum.
Most of the teams assigned to draw up with plans for the 11 coastal cities are "adherents to the movement known as New Urbanism," and their plans propose mixing residential and commercial development in "village-type settings that encourage walking instead of driving."
Drawing up the plans is just the first stage -- future battles loom over zoning and the interests of developers -- but at the moment the planners seem to be keen on using the reconstruction process to steer development in a better dirction:
After the storm, many residents assumed that rebuilding meant developers would reshape the Gulf Coast into a gleaming string of high rises priced out of reach for average citizens.
Jim Wetzel, a retired tax assessor for Biloxi, said he expects the beaches to be redeveloped as condominiums, continuing a trend already in motion before Katrina. "You won't see single-family residential here anymore," he said. "It's going to be like Destin, Fla."
Forum organizer and Miami-based architect Andres Duany said the forum is designed to short-circuit that type of out-of-control development.
"Before we came here, there was no choice for these towns but to listen to the developers," he said. "There was no plan B."
Visit the Mississippi Renewal website to see more, it's really quite an amazing feat they're trying to pull off.