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Paving Paradise
Debating History and Gentrification in Austin


First in a Two-Part Series


US $7.95 CAN $10.95
Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

Edited by Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

“This book reveals fresh and insightful approaches to the challenges of facing natural disaster. Contributions
from the fields of regionalism and environmental planning are positive and prospective, offering new ways to
understand how the places we call home are interconnected with each other and with the land. I’m particularly
struck by the thoughtful writings about the individuality of these places, where cultural expressions in music
and architecture are irrepressible, even amidst debris and discouragement.”
—Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chairman, Urban Land Institute

“After reading Rebuilding Urban Places one comes away with the understanding of how complex a process it
is to restore our urban communities after experiencing such a catastrophe . . . and an understanding of the
leaps this country must take to help and protect our citizens.”
—John Timoney, Chief of Police, Miami

“No elected official or planning professional should miss this book. Birch and Wachter have collected essays
spanning every dimension of rebuilding. From historical lessons to cutting-edge practices, there is so much to learn.”
—Brent Warr, Mayor, City of Gulfport, Mississippi

Disasters—natural ones, such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, and unnatural ones such as terrorist attacks—are part of the Ameri-
can experience in the twenty-first century. The challenges of preparing for these events, withstanding their impact, and rebuilding communities
afterward require strategic responses from different levels of government in partnership with the private sector and in accordance with the
public will.

Disasters have a disproportionate effect on urban places. Dense by definition, cities and their environs suffer great damage to their complex,
interdependent social, environmental, and economic systems. Social and medical services collapse. Long-standing problems in educational
access and quality become especially acute. Local economies cease to function. Cultural resources disappear. The plight of New Orleans and
several smaller Gulf Coast cities exemplifies this phenomenon.

This volume examines the rebuilding of cities and their environs after a disaster and focuses on four major issues: making cities less vulnerable
to disaster, reestablishing economic viability, responding to the permanent needs of the displaced, and recreating a sense of place. Success
in these areas requires that priorities be set cooperatively, and this goal poses significant challenges for rebuilding efforts in a democratic,
market-based society. Who sets priorities and how? Can participatory decision-making be organized under conditions requiring focused, stra-
tegic choices? How do issues of race and class intersect with these priorities? Should the purpose of rebuilding be restoration or reformation?
Contributors address these and other questions related to environmental conditions, economic imperatives, social welfare concerns, and issues
of planning and design in light of the lessons to be drawn from Hurricane Katrina.

Contributors include: Elijah Anderson, Richard J. Gelles, Robert Giegengack, Nick Spitzer, and Dell Upton

The City in the Twenty-First Century

Nov 2006 | 400 pages | 8 color, 60 b/w illus. | Paper | $34.95
from the editor YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO FIND talks about casinos, local heroes, and how
that, in a magazine about the city of the Gulfport is slowly rebuilding. On a bitter-
future, we’ve built an entire issue around the sweet note, Doug Giuliano offers a darkly
theme of historic preservation. But preserva- hilarious take on his experiences as a FEMA
tion is just as important to a city’s beauty and volunteer last fall. These are the first articles
flourishing as are growth, demolition, and in a two-issue series about the storm’s long-
change. Every day, whether or not they frame term lessons and ramifications.
it in such terms, civic leaders take stands on For our next issue, appearing this winter,
this issue. Which structures are so valuable The Next American City will be ramping up
that they should be left intact and adapted for editorial production and undergoing a radical
new, modern uses? Which should be destroyed re-design. This will mean both a new look and
to make way for more sound or innovative new kinds of editorial coverage. Our goal, as
developments? While we believe that growth always, is to be a powerful and provocative
and change are vital—and inevitable—in voice in the national conversation about all
American cities, we also know that newer isn’t things urban and suburban. We will be experi-
always better, and that the wrecking ball menting with new kinds of writing and report-
doesn’t always signal progress. ing, offering our readers more timely, fresh,
In “Paving Paradise,” Joseph Heathcott and insightful views on city developments
relates the gory details of one of the most con- around the country. We’ll also tackle, as our
troversial preservation battles in recent histo- main theme, one of the most controversial
ry. The Century Building in downtown St. news topics in recent memory: immigration.
Louis, a late-18th-century office tower with I’m very excited to come on board as full-
cast-iron doorways and ornate marble detail- time editor of the magazine. Adam Gordon will
ing, was torn down in late 2004 to make way remain involved as editor-in-chief. In upcom-
for a 1,000-unit parking lot. It’s the stuff of ing issues, other editors, writers, and artists
folk songs, and a preservationist’s nightmare. will use this space to give a behind-the-scenes
And yet one of the oldest and most esteemed look at their contributions to the magazine.
preservation groups in the country, the Please let me know how we’re doing. Or,
National Trust, supported razing the building if you’re in the Philadelphia area, feel free to
and paving it over. stop by The Next American City’s new offices
In “Preservation in the Progressive City,” at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute
Jeffrey Chusid, a Cornell professor and for- for Urban Research in Meyerson Hall.
mer Austinite, tells a tale of clashing progres-
sives in one of the most radical cities on the
planet. Austin preservationists, long wary of
the Smart Growth crowd, eventually faced off Happy reading,
with a social justice group, who then blamed
both Smart Growth and preservation laws for Jess McCuan
spurring gentrification in East Austin. Editor
No city has ever struggled with the kinds
of historic preservation dilemmas currently
facing the Gulf Coast cities of New Orleans,
Biloxi, and Gulfport. Which buildings should
be preserved and rehabilitated, or knocked
down and never rebuilt? Now that the one-
year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has
passed and the issues that the storm stirred
up are slipping off the political radar, we felt
it was important to keep you updated on
developments in the Gulf Coast. Emily Weiss
reports on the role of Christian missionaries
in the clean-up effort, and Brent Warr, the
mayor of Gulfport, Mississippi—a city gener-
ally overlooked by the media last summer—

14 Paving Paradise: The Century Building Debacle

and the Future of Historic Preservation
by Joseph Heathcott

19 Will Bethlehem Turn Steel into Gold?

by Jeff Pooley

23 Preservation in the Progressive City:

Debating History and Gentrification in Austin
by Jeffrey Chusid

features: departments book reviews

historic preservation
6 Sex in the City 43 Planet of Slums
28 Looking East by Stephen Janis Reviewed by Carly Berwick
by Robert Garland Thomson
8 Resurrecting Death and Life 44 Rebuilding Urban Places
31 Saving High-Rise Public Housing by Anthony Weiss After Disaster: Lessons from
by Sharon Maclean Hurricane Katrina
10 Engineering the Perfect Suburb Reviewed by Mariana Mogilevich
by David Gest
Katrina: one year later 45 The Place You Love is Gone
Reviewed by Anika Singh
36 Crosses From Rubble
by Emily Weiss
last exit
40 15 Minutes With... Brent Warr, Mayor
of Gulfport, Mississippi 48 An Outsider Peers into
by Jess McCuan the FEMA Trailer
by Doug Giuliano

Telephone Poles, Ninth Ward, October, New Orleans, LA, 2005. Photo ©Will Steacy
editor-in-chief president CREATIVES TAKING FLIGHT: In the meantime, true creatives will
Adam Gordon Seth A. Brown A COMPOSER RESPONDS find their voice and their audience in As a composer who has recently less mainstream idioms and places.
decided that the Bay Area is too
editor publisher expensive a place to live, I read with Paul Crabtree
Jess McCuan Michelle Kuly great interest Daniel Brook’s essay, Oakland, CA “The Cultural Contradictions of the
Creative Age.”
art directors finance director GAMBLING ON
Jayme Yen Jonathan Adler Musical institutions of large American PHILADELPHIA’S FUTURE
Yve Ludwig urban centers such as San Francisco The opening of the article in your last
intern can afford to provide an invaluable issue, “Gambling on Philadelphia’s
managing editor Laura Michaelson glimpse into the great music and tra- Future,” states that “Philadelphia
Sara C. Galvan Mei-Lun Xue ditional forms of the past, and occa- doesn’t need to become the next sionally of the present. But it is the Atlantic City.” I would argue that
researcher second-tier cities that are becoming Philadelphia doesn’t want to become
executive editor David S. Godfrey affordable centers of innovation and, the next Atlantic City. Judging from
Nathaniel Hodes as a result, are more attractive loca- the lack of zoning considerations on contributing writers tions for many artists who are forging the part of casino developers, and the
Carly Berwick, Jeffrey Chusid, the music of the future. lack of law enforcement beyond the
submissions editor Doug Giuliano, David Gest, one-mile perimeter of the casinos, I
Anika Singh Joseph Heathcott, Stephen Janis, My particular niche of 21st-century doubt any Philadelphian would want Sharon Maclean, Jeff Pooley, choral music is thriving outside the casinos anyway.
Anika Singh, Robert Garland Thomson, traditional cultural centers.
senior editors Anthony Weiss, Emily Weiss • Conspirare in Austin, Texas, led by The article also says this: “In the 1990s,
Carly Berwick, Last Exit Craig Hella Johnson, is a $1 million Philadelphia was flirting with bank-
Paul Breloff, Planning & Transportation contributing artists professional choir with a national rep- ruptcy and reeling from decades of
C.J. Gabbe, Features Rebekah Brem, Alan Brunettin, Frank Klein, utation. population and job loss. To encourage
David Gest, Features Shaun O’Boyle, Will Steacy <> development, the city in 1997 and 2000
Mariana Mogilevich, Architecture • The Esoterics in Seattle, conducted passed a ten-year property tax morato-
& Reviews editorial advisory board by Eric Banks, and Opus 7, conducted rium on most new construction and
Mike Sabel, Technology (affiliations for identification purposes only) by Loren Pontén, in Kenmore, Wash- rehabilitation projects, fueling a real
Anika Singh, Law, Policy, & Communities Vicki Been, New York University Law School ington, are regular winners of estate boom.”
Jenna Snow, Features Cynthia Farrar, Yale University ASCAP’s annual “Adventurous Pro-
Shayna Strom, Politics, Labor, Joel Garreau gramming” award. Since lowering taxes generated such a
& Organizations Alexander Garvin <>, boom and thus created more revenue,
Christy Zink, Education & Culture Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker <> why do we listen to the casinos’ prom-
Hugh Hardy, H3 Hardy Collaboration LLC • Seraphic Fire, conducted by Patrick ises of generating more revenue for the
contributing editors Bruce Heitler, Heitler Development Dupré Quigley, is an “astounding pro- city? Every study done in cities that
Doug Sell, Beth Silverman, W. Lehr Jackson, Williams Jackson Ewing fessional chamber choir” (Miami Her- introduce casinos proves that the social
Jim Schroder, Allison Smith Paloma Pavel, Earth House, Inc. ald) transforming the cultural land- costs and strain on emergency services
David Serviansky, Landstar Homes scape of south Florida. actually outweighs the revenue gener-
senior staff writer <> ated by casinos. Why not continue to
Charles Shaw keep taxes lower to keep up the
Next year I am relocating from Oak- growth? Why not build the Delaware
land to the desert Southwest, where riverfront with responsible, legitimate
my housing expense will be about businesses, and museums and parks?
one-third of what it is here, and yet I
will have more opportunities to have Sean Benjamin
my work performed. Since I am more Philadelphia, PA
likely to strike up a conversation with
a conductor on the Internet than at a
local party, the placelessness of the
World Wide Web will enable me to
maintain my professional relation-
ships without the burden of living in
an absurdly expensive location.

I of course have mixed feelings about

leaving a place that has been my
home for twenty years. But I welcome
the artistic innovations made possible
by technology and necessitated by
unchecked capitalism.

Printed by WestCan Printing Group, Canada. ©2006 The Next American City, Inc. This is a critical issue that larger cit-
ies would be well advised to address
THE NEXT AMERICAN CITY Issue 12 October 2006 (ISSN 1544-6999) is published quarterly by in order to avert the consequences of
talent flight. With the dwindling pool of
photo ©frankkleinIV

The Next American City Inc., PO Box 42627, Philadelphia, PA 19101. Periodicals postage
pending at Philadelphia, PA, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address young music teachers and little or no
changes to THE NEXT AMERICAN CITY, PO Box 42627, Philadelphia, PA 19101. music in schools, audience recruitment
puts even more strain on symphony dollars, and market forces will neces-
Online sitate entertainment instead of art.

page 4
arts & culture by Stephen Janis photos by Frank Klein

Sex in the City

As the city gentrifies, will a red-light district called “The Block” disappear?
Should anybody care?

ON A SNOWY MONDAY NIGHT IN from a Barnes & Noble and a Best Buy—and cilman Nick D’Adamo, Jr., who represented
December, the lights of the packed bars are less than one hundred yards from City Hall— the Block for nearly fifteen years before redis-
warmly tempting. A thousand dancers work sits a red-light district known simply as “The tricting in 2003, adds that “Tourists definitely
in the 28 strip bars here—bars like Flamingo Block.” A dense assemblage of strip bars, visit the Block, especially after football and
Lounge, Lust, and Two O’Clock Club (home antiquated neon signs, and grizzled door- baseball games.”
of cinematic icon Blaze Starr). Inside one of men, the Block covers one-quarter of a square Councilman D’Adamo takes a pragmatic
the clubs, patrons nurse beers as a young mile along Baltimore Street between South view of the Block’s economic and social
stripper extends her body upside down along Street and Gay Street and has stubbornly impact. He views a concentrated red-light dis-
the shimmer pole. One dancer, with moon- occupied the same location for almost 75 trict as a means of controlling an industry
stone eyes and luxurious dark hair, idles near years. Many of the clients of the Block’s bars that would exist anyway. “If we close it
the entrance of the bar. She comments that are businessmen willing to spend up to thou- down,” he argues, “it will just spread out to
business was better after last week’s football sands of dollars in high-end venues like the other neighborhoods; here, we can keep an
game, played by the Baltimore Ravens, whose newly-renovated Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. eye on it.” Part of that attitude may stem
70,000-seat coliseum is less than a mile But it’s no secret that the tourist trade—11 from the failure of previous efforts to control
away. Moments later, an older gentleman million people visited Baltimore in 2004— or eliminate illegal activity on the Block. In
photo ©frankkleinIV

enters the bar; the dancer takes his arm and fuels the Block. According to a bartender at 1994, then-Maryland Governor and former
leads him into the dark, curtained back room one of the more popular establishments, “We Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer
for a private lap dance, and perhaps more. clean up during conventions—tourism is ordered state troopers to conduct a four-
In downtown Baltimore, a stone’s throw very important to us.” Baltimore City Coun- month investigation of alleged drug dealing

page 6
and prostitution. The investigation culminat- rowhouses. Add to this a high concentration of beckon them inside their clubs: “We have
ed in a massive raid, which effectively shut opiate addicts and crack dealers, and one can twelve girls, all fresh,” says one, “guaranteed
down the Block and resulted in dozens of get a glimpse of the divergent realities of the beautiful.” The scrolling LED ticker of the
arrests. Most of the charges were later gleaming downtown and the rest of Baltimore. Hustler Club touts drink specials and “cou-
dropped, however, as several of the undercov- ples night.” Meanwhile, at the end of Calvert
er troopers were later convicted of bedding The Trouble with Red-Light Districts Street, the Inner Harbor Pavilion is festively
dancers and purchasing illegal drugs. Since These hopeless conditions likely compel lit and casting gold platelets across the water.
then, despite the continued rumors of prosti- many young women from the city’s poorer In Baltimore, residents have choices: the
tution, drug dealing, and other illicit activity, neighborhoods to fill the bars as sex workers. Harbor Pavilion or the Hustler Club, sex or
the Block has operated without interference. To be sure, prostitution is not an ideal life- professional sports, drugs or open air shop-
style. Sidney Anne Ford, Executive Director ping. Indeed, they can have both. Unlike
A Contrast with the Rest of You Are Never Alone, an outreach center nearby Washington, where prostitutes traffic
of Downtown for city prostitutes located in West Baltimore, on the streets, and Philadelphia, where three
That the Block still exists is especially points out that almost all the women she “lifestyle” sex clubs have just been shuttered
surprising because it rests at the heart of Bal- works with share a common experience of by the city, Baltimore’s “dirty” district is
timore’s most valuable real estate. Just yards sexual abuse. She argues that regardless of much more concentrated, active, and readily
away, at the revitalized Inner Harbor, are how sex work is characterized, the industry accessible to the pristine new downtown. The
granite skyscrapers, million-dollar condo- takes unfair advantage of emotionally trau- question for Baltimore is whether—and
miniums, and retail development. The sym- matized and economically disadvantaged how—its gritty red-light underworld can co-
metrical square columns of Baltimore’s 25- young women. “Exploitation is exploitation; it exist with the city’s efforts towards economic
story World Trade Center sit alongside doesn’t matter what you call it,” Ford says. and social advancement.
familiar suburban signs: a Cheesecake Fac- Others defend the urban red-light district
tory restaurant, an ESPN Zone Sports Bar, as a reflection of changing social norms.
and a Hard Rock Café. Couples linger on a Timothy Gilfoyle, a historian who researches Altman, Dennis. Global Sex. Chicago:
pleasant, brick-laid harbor walk. Recently, urban prostitution and commercial sex, says University of Chicago Press, 2001.
the Brookings Institution issued a report that a commercialized sex industry is “more
titled, “Who Lives Downtown?” The report tolerated now than at any other point in U.S. Gilfoyle, Timothy J. City of Eros: New
York City, Prostitution, and the
called Baltimore’s downtown “Emerging”—a history.” Gilfoyle notes the wide use of por-
Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920.
category showing “promise of becoming a nography in private homes, citing the statistic New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.
fully developed downtown” and just a step that in 1999 Americans rented 711 million
below A-list cities like Boston, Chicago, and pornographic videos, resulting in a $10 bil- Mitchell, Alexander D. Baltimore: Then
New York City. lion industry (more current sources put the and Now. San Diego: Thunder Bay
Press, 2001.
Aside from a few upscale strip clubs, the value of the industry at $12 billion). Gilfoyle
Block has resisted the revitalization of the also cites performance artists like Annie
Smith, Neil. The New Urban Frontier:
rest of downtown. Perhaps as a result, it is Sprinkle and Veronica Vera who treat “prosti- Gentrification and the Revanchist City.
more true to the overall character of Balti- tution and pornography as sources of creativi- New York: Routledge, 1966.
more. With a median household income of ty and liberation”—and not as marginalized
roughly $33,000, as reported to the U.S. Cen- activities. Councilman D’Adamo claims that Weitzer, Ronald John. Sex for Sale:
Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex
sus Bureau in 2003, most Baltimoreans can- the Block’s establishments employ many
Industry. New York: Routledge, 2000.
not afford to live in the rapidly gentrifying young women who view dancing as a career:
downtown. The rest of the city maintains a “Some women, this is all they know.”
blue-collar ethos, fashioned by decades of A chain-smoking stripper named Tabitha
steel workers, longshoremen, and factory confirms this analysis: “A dancer can make
workers living in working-class villages domi- good money if she knows how to hustle,” she
nated by brick rowhouses. says. “In here, I’m in control. I don’t have to
With 269 murders in 2005, according to do anything I don’t want. On the street it’s a
the Maryland Central Records Division, Balti- different story.” Inside the bar a contingent
more had one of the highest per capita mur- of bouncers and bartenders watch over the
der rates in the country. Much of the housing place, providing some safeguard against
stock is in disrepair, and Baltimore has the abuse. But on the street, things are less
highest eviction rates in the country, with secure. Off-the-clock dancers loiter near a
5.81 evictions per 100 renters, a statistic pizza parlor, pale and blemished under the
which shows in the piles of splintered furni- harsh fluorescent lights. A pack of young
ture towering like burial mounds in front of men restlessly scour the sidewalk as hawkers

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in memoriam by Anthony Weiss illustration by Rebekah Brem

Resurrecting Death and Life

Why Jane Jacobs’ followers still misunderstand her most important
contributions to urban thought

THE DAY AFTER HER DEATH IN APRIL, Her approach was scientific, not in the down a visual model of town centers and
newspapers across North America eulogized sense of formulas and statistics, but in the shopping villages just about anywhere on the
Jane Jacobs. Reporters and op-ed writers classic mode of the scientific method: she map. But appearances don’t dictate function,
praised her masterwork, The Death and Life of observed, developed hypotheses, tested nor do they create markets from thin air.
Great American Cities, as the most important hypotheses, modified them, and drew con- Jacobs wrote Death and Life specifically to
book on cities in the 20th century. Planners, clusions based on what she had seen. “Cit- attack this way of planning. Instead of dream-
architects, critics, developers, and govern- ies are an immense laboratory of trial and ing up imaginary cities, she observed real cit-
ment officials in every major North American error, failure and success, in city building ies, and from those observations arrived at
city spoke about how Death and Life changed and city design,” she wrote. “This is the lab- her own model for how cities work. Now
the way they looked at cities, and changed oratory in which city planning should have some of her adherents have reverse-engi-
their lives. been learning and forming and testing its neered her observations to create just another
Revolutionary when it was published, theories.” She also stressed that her obser- set of visual models. Fifty years ago, the plan-
Death and Life has since become settled doc- vations were site-specific: “I hope no reader ners’ doctrine was light and air and grass.
trine. The book has spawned a cottage indus- will try to transfer my observations into Today, the doctrine is bustling streets and
try of planners dedicated to advancing the guides as to what goes on in towns, or little front porches and community. Both are sim-
ideas that Jacobs set down almost 50 years cities, or in suburbs which are still subur- ply visual styles—design masquerading as
ago. They took her notions of mixed-use ban,” she warned. “Towns, suburbs, and planning.
neighborhoods, 24-hour street life, and walk- even little cities are totally different organ- Jacobs wrote, “There is a quality even
able downtowns and condensed them into isms from great cities.” meaner than outright ugliness or disorder,
hard formulas—a fixed prescription for Too many of her would-be followers have and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask
mixed-use developments of shops, offices, ignored this precaution. They have adopted of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or
and apartments, clustered around down- Jacobs’s conclusions without applying her suppressing the real order that is struggling to
towns, oriented towards walking, and ideally, careful methods. They build according to exist and to be served.” The living spaces of
connected to a transit station. models for how neighborhoods and towns today are admittedly a confusing jumble—
Some of these planners call themselves and suburbs should work, and how people people own cars, shop online, have jobs in far-
New Urbanists. Others stand for Smart should live, rather than how people do live. away office parks. But the most complex liv-
Growth or Transit-Oriented Design, and some Just as the conceivers of modernist towers-in- ing spaces are precisely the ones that should
don’t bother with labels. But one and all, these the-park wrongly assumed that tenants be our laboratories. These are places to
apostles reverently sprinkle quotations from would stroll through the grass because it was observe and learn, rather than mere problems
Jacobs throughout their writings. Their work, there to be strolled through, contemporary in need of prescriptions. Honoring Jacobs’s
indirectly, is Jacobs’s great legacy, writ large planners too often believe that if a place legacy means uncovering the order beneath
across the landscape of North America. looks like a 19th-century town, it will func- the disorder in cities and suburbs. All this dig-
Yet their approach to planning misses the tion like one. ging may not produce a pretty picture, but it
fundamental point of Death and Life. Jacobs’s The contemporary visions of Smart will be a critical step in developing livable
great power as a writer and thinker was root- Growth, New Urbanism, and town centers spaces that are honest about the needs of mar-
ed in her tremendous talent as an observer, are not so much rooted in Jacobs’s work as kets, geography, and—most of all—the people
and Death and Life is a work of reportage. they are superficial readings, mixed with ele- they are created to serve.
Her critique of contemporary planning rested ments of late-19th- and early-20th-century
upon a simple premise: the planners of cities urban centers. Architects have criticized
did not understand how cities worked. More these movements for being stylistically retro-
precisely, they did not understand how peo- grade. The problem is not their style, howev-
ple actually lived in cities because they had er, but that they are in a sense nothing but
not bothered to observe city life. style. Today’s planners believe they can plop

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planning text and photos by David Gest

Engineering the Perfect Suburb

A California naval base becomes an experiment in suburban living

IN THE HEART OF ORANGE COUNTY, the closing. In 1999, the military relocated low-lying buildings spread over the county.
California—the poster child for postwar sub- operations to another air base and granted “The challenge,” says Buchanan, “is to create
urban sprawl in the United States—lies a the property to the city. enough density and energy with vertical
1500-acre former military base, one of the The property is a uniquely valuable devel- mixed-use development, on a 24-hour basis…
last remaining major development sites in a opment parcel in a county where the median Although there probably won’t be anything
3-million person county with little room to home price is over $700,000. The former over ten stories tall. We’re looking to create
grow. The choices made by local residents base has easy access to freeways and the com- something that’s more of an Orange County-
and builders in redeveloping Tustin Marine muter rail “Metrolink” station, linking the type environment than Manhattan.”
Core Air Station (MCAS) show that Orange site to five surrounding counties, including
County can no longer be stereotyped as the Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to Poster Child
land of endless freeways, widely scattered sin- the south. John Wayne International Airport for New Suburbanism?
gle-family detached homes on large lots, and is also nearby for connections further afield. What does this kind of infill project rep-
homogenous neighborhoods of wealthy, con- The redevelopment plans for the base— resent for the county, and for suburbs as a
servative white people. But neither will already about fifteen percent built out—call whole? “Orange County is going back to the
Orange County necessarily become a place of for a wide array of uses, including approxi- initial suburban ideal,” proclaims Joel Kotkin.
inevitable, dense urbanization. The innova- mately 2,500 new homes, a “community Kotkin is a proponent of a movement called
tive development plan proposed for the Navy core” of mixed-use buildings; an “Advanced “New Suburbanism” and the author of a
base, called Tustin Legacy, aligns with a new Technology and Education Park” with a range 2005 paper of the same name. Whereas its
planning theory—New Suburbanism—that of educational facilities; and a retail and more established counterpart, New Urban-
promotes the acceptance and reuse of the entertainment center, including several ism, takes cues from “traditional” town plan-
suburban form. By merging some of the ide- national retailers, restaurants, and a multiplex ning—epitomized by older European and
als of the anti-sprawl, Smart Growth move- movie theater. A park intended to serve as the American cities with narrow, walkable
ment that currently dominates urban plan- premier recreation facility for the area will be streets, public squares, vernacular architec-
ning theory with the culture of one of Ameri- at the center of the development, linked via ture, and front porches—New Suburbanism
ca’s most important suburbs, Tustin Legacy bikeways and walking trails to a system of references the Garden City movement of
may become an important model for the smaller linear and pocket parks. The project Ebenezer Howard, which envisioned a har-
infill development of aging and crowded sub- will also include two unique features: a fami- monious balance between housing, industry,
urbs across the country. ly-oriented homeless shelter and job training and open space in the suburbs. New Urban-
facility called the Village of Hope, the most ism advocates dense, pedestrian-oriented city
A New Look for Orange County comprehensive capital project ever undertak- centers (in the form of infill projects in older
The air base began as a Navy blimp en by the Orange County Rescue Mission; cities, or concentrated, axis-oriented “green-
repository in 1942, and after WWII converted and two of the largest wood-frame structures field” designs such as those in Seaside, Flori-
to a Marine Corps helicopter station. Over the in the world: the massive blimp hangers in da). New Suburbanism, on the other hand,
years, its surroundings changed rapidly— the middle of the property, each more than accepts car-oriented, single-family-home-
with single-family homes and business parks 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide. dominated development, but aims to inte-
to the north, low-lying industrial parks and Even more unusual than these behe- grate it with denser, self-sufficient suburbs,
strip malls to the west and south, and the moths are the project’s proposed density and some including large apartment buildings
master-planned, ultra-manicured city of (relatively) tall buildings. Most mixed-use upwards of 10 units per acre (not just stereo-
Irvine to the east. In 1991, the federal development in Orange County is horizontal, typical collections of single-family homes)
Defense Base Closure and Realignment according to John Buchanan, Redevelopment and employment, shopping, and entertain-
Commission slated Tustin MCAS to close. Program Manager with the City of Tustin. ment within suburb limits.
The Tustin community was deeply invested Tustin hopes to enlist a well known architec- Many New Urbanists decry Kotkin’s New
in redevelopment plans and, in an unusual ture firm to erect “mini skyscrapers” that will Suburbanist terminology, claiming that he
move for a military community, insisted on give the city a noticeable profile against the has simply tweaked New Urban ideas for his

page 10
own purposes. Whether or not Kotkin’s ideas In large part, Tustin residents established Community involvement in the early
are wholly original, the New Suburbanism their vision through an extensive planning planning has paid off in that very little, if any,
concept seems accurate: critics note that process preceding the redevelopment. controversy surrounds the complex endeavor;
many walkable New Urbanist communities According to Christine Shingleton, Tustin’s most area residents are “on board” and look-
are ultimately car-dependent, often in the Assistant City Manager and Tustin Legacy ing forward to completion. Almost all of the
form of suburbs lacking links to a regional Project Coordinator, city planners and a team 1,153 buildable acres have been designated for
transit system. Whatever these relatively of outside consultants started out analyzing particular developments, and the Navy will
dense and self-sufficient (but still car-depen- the redevelopment successes and failures of provide funding and labor for environmental
dent) communities are called, they represent then-recent base closures across the country. cleanup efforts to remove hazardous materi-
a new form of suburban development. They began devising a plan to incorporate als from the site. Shingleton hasn’t taken the
Tustin’s thoughtful planning could thus “livable community” and “sustainable success of the project to date for granted. “It
qualify the Legacy as a poster child for New design” techniques similar to those promoted is like rocket science!” she joked. “It’s not like
Suburbanism’s brand of suburban reuse. by New Urbanism. But while the evolving developing a vacant piece of property—this is
While few communities have the luxury of plans “played off of New Urbanism and those infill, brownfield development!”
“newly created” wide-open space, as in Tus- other ideas,” says Shingleton, considerable

tin or the nearby decommissioned El Toro input from residents helped shape Tustin’s Planning with Open Arms
Marine Corps Air Station, increasing subur- own version of a livable community: “[The In addition to the balance of housing,
ban density and intensity of use may be the plans] became ours, and we embraced schools, and parks planned for Tustin Legacy,
most viable solution to America’s rapidly them.” The goals for the property and the the city has ensured a diversity of residents
crowding suburbs. Tustin Legacy’s design community articulated by residents included by hiring a variety of homebuilders and
represents an important middle ground the creation of a new destination with a dis- enacting “inclusive” zoning through different
between New Urbanism’s focus on the city’s tinct sense of place; an architectural and affordable homeownership plans. The city
urban form, and developers’ market-driven economic diversity of housing types; a com- mandated a 25 percent housing affordability
subdivision expansion farther and farther munity-inspiring layout featuring intercon- provision, higher than anywhere else in the
away from city centers. “People aren’t going nected open space or parkland, human- county, meaning that they will lose about $40
back to the corner store,” asserts Kotkin. scaled buildings and social and recreational million of land value in exchange, according
“Especially when you’re shopping for fami- activity centers; and proximity to jobs, in to Shingleton. The economic variety of resi-
lies, you’re going to shop at the big box order to cut down on commute times and dents drawn from the surrounding county
retailers.” decrease area traffic. will most likely mean an ethnic diversity as

page 11
well: as of 2000, whites represented about commended by President Bush, provided can rehabilitate as a recreational facility or
half of county residents, with approximately nearly 1 million meals to the hungry and museum. Other aspects of the project, from
one-third Hispanic, fifteen percent of Asian 35,000 homeless in the county during the subsidized housing to a network of parks and
descent, and the remaining portion African last fiscal year. While the Mission does accept schools, may serve as a model for suburban
American. non-Christians, according to Melanie McNiff, infill and the reuse of brownfields or other
British homebuilder John Laing Homes Director of Communications for the Mission, open space. As built-out suburbs become the
has completed the first housing on the site, participants—mostly homeless—must set focal point for expanding American cities,
the 376-unit Tustin Fields I, and is nearing self-sufficiency goals and accept the organiza- whether considered “New Suburban,” “New
completion of another group of homes. tion’s faith-centered mission. Slated to open Urban,” or community and market-driven
According to Dan Flynn, Vice President of in summer 2006, the Village will incorporate urban planning, Tustin Legacy demonstrates
Acquisitions at John Laing, their slice of existing Navy buildings and new construction that careful planning can overcome persistent
development at Tustin Legacy includes a to house 192 family members and individu- problems of finding ways to provide afford-
variety of architectural styles and pricing als, along with a medical center, job training able homes and also meet the frequent com-
plans. Densities range from ten to eighteen facility, and chapel, all using $25 million munity objections to any kind of serious
units per acre, primarily in the form of com- raised by the Mission. “There has been no development in desirable suburbs.
pact, attached row houses, and homebuyers controversy surrounding our project,” says
may pay from $74,000 to more than McNiff. “The Rescue Mission has a good rep-
$500,000, depending on housing type, for utation in the county, and we hope to estab-
John Laing Homes, Orange County
adjacent units. lish partnerships with a lot of the other busi-
Affordability has drawn county residents nesses and schools coming in [to Tustin Leg-
to Tustin Fields, but would they prefer a acy], so that they can be a part of the commu-
detached home with a big yard and a picket nity helping the homeless.” History of Tustin MCAS
fence? Flynn suggests not: “In Orange Coun-

ty there’s a pent-up demand for the urban More Than Just a Pretty Base MCASTustin.html

lifestyle. Residents are looking for more con- Christine Shingleton emphasizes the
Orange County Rescue Mission’s
venience: no yard to maintain, adjacent to unusual partnerships that have defined Tus- Village of Hope
amenities like retail, entertainment, and dry tin Legacy to date. “In addition to involving
cleaning. They’re willing to sacrifice the big- and engaging the community” in the plan- voh/intro/intro.htm
ger house and bigger yard for that conve- ning process, the city has worked collabora-
Tustin Legacy (City of Tustin)
nience.” Alex Alix, who will move into Tustin tively with the development community on
Fields II with his family, concurs: “The build- project designs, Shingleton says. “As opposed
ings here are more distinct, more bold, than to working in isolation to develop plans that Tustin Legacy news from the Orange
the blander homes in Irvine. There is a don’t reflect reality, we’ve tested the market County Register
noticeable design difference; Tustin has more to create something that can be replicated

character.” anywhere. Partnering with the private sector tustin_news/legacy/

But not everyone agrees. Jack Denny, and responding to the market are reasons
another recent addition to Tustin Fields II, why this project will be successful.” Working
does not consider Tustin Legacy an ideal with a variety of experienced suburban devel-
home, but “you have to pick and choose what opers, including John Laing, Shea Homes,
fits best” in a county where affordable hous- Centex Homes, and Lennar, which also has
ing is not prevalent. “There are lots of com- base reuse experience, the city has assured
muters here, so I haven’t had much time to Tustin Legacy a diversity of home types pro-
spend with the neighbors, and the housing is duced by massive, market-tested homebuild-
a little tight,” says Denny, but at least the ing companies.
planned high-rises will be reserved for office At first glance, Tustin Legacy could be
space, not homes. labeled simply as a base reuse project, the
Beyond planning the site’s subsidized kind receiving frequent press coverage fol-
housing, the City of Tustin has taken subur- lowing each round of military closures. But
ban “inclusionary” housing to people with far the city’s “bottom-up” site planning—involv-
lower incomes than are typically served by ing community feedback and incorporating a
such affordable housing programs by build- variety of partnerships between the public,
ing the Village of Hope. The city’s partner in private, and non-profit sectors—offers broad-
the project, the Orange County Rescue Mis- er lessons. The colossal blimp hangars repre-
sion, a 50-year-old “faith-based” non-profit sent the kind of unique features that a city

page 12

page 13
historic preservation by Joseph Heathcott photos by Alan Brunettin

Paving Paradise:
The Century Building
Debacle and the Future
of Historic Preservation
It isn’t every day that the National Trust for Historic Preservation steps into
a local development debate with this advice: turn a massive marble-clad downtown
building into a thousand-unit parking lot

IN THE LATE-NIGHT HOURS OF OCTOBER 20, 2004, bulldozers heritage, and it has destroyed that heritage with reckless abandon. St.
began demolishing one of the finest buildings in downtown St. Louis. Louis is renowned for its superb trove of late-nineteenth- and early-
Fearful that an injunction might halt his pet project, Mayor Francis twentieth-century architecture. In the decades following World War II,
Slay took a page out of the Richard Daley playbook and ordered crews however, the city lurched into decline, suffering catastrophic losses in
to commence work under cover of night. By the morning, efforts to population, jobs, and capital. Land values plummeted through the 1970s
save the Century Building were moot. The damage had been done. and 1980s, and the reduced tax base left the city with few options but to
The demolition of the Century Building resulted from a perfect defer maintenance of infrastructure. Desperate to compete with auto-
storm of bad decisions, and the episode offers a case study of what mobile-oriented suburban malls and office parks, city officials used
can go wrong in historic preservation despite decades of accumulated urban renewal funds to demolish superb old buildings for surface park-
wisdom in best practices. For most preservationists, the destruction ing lots.
of irreplaceable pieces of the historic urban fabric is unacceptable The news was not all dismal. Beginning in the early 1960s, citi-
unless it clears the way for exceptional new architecture worthy of zens coalesced for an all-out fight to save the Wainwright Building,
future preservation efforts. Local and state officials should act as stew- Louis Sullivan’s terra-cotta-clad masterpiece situated in the heart of
ards of their built heritage, and the National Trust for Historic Preser- the city’s business district. Declared a National Landmark in 1968,
vation should provide guidance and leadership to promote innovative the Wainwright Building catapulted historic preservation into the
adaptive reuse projects. public eye, and St. Louisans took a fresh look at their built heritage.
In the case of the Century Building, these roles, responsibilities, and In the 1970s, preservation enthusiasts began to make use of feder-
best practices were ignored. City officials lined up behind a tragically al—and later, state—tax credits to finance the rehabilitation of
short-sighted demolition scheme while squelching viable alternatives to houses, shops, and whole neighborhoods. By 2005, the Landmarks
appease developers. Demolition made way not for exceptional new Association had facilitated the listing of hundreds of individual build-
architecture, but rather for a bland, unnecessary, one-thousand-unit ings on the National Register, and thousands more through inclusion
parking garage. Most shockingly, officials at the National Trust—looked in historic districts. St. Louis had emerged as one of the leading cities
to for leadership in preservation efforts—provided the financial support in the national preservation movement.
to make the project possible, betraying their own long-term constituen- Despite their best efforts, however, preservation activists have
cy. The ramifications of this reversal for historic preservation—and for regularly seen their labors in one neighborhood counteracted by
the cities salvaged through its practice—appear grim. large-scale demolition in another. The city’s downtown has been
particularly gutted. The Washington Avenue Loft District has had
Fracturing some improvements, but the downtown as a whole retains a listless
Previous page: The Century Building, prior to the Civic Landscape quality, drowning in a dull sea of surface lots and parking garages.
demolition. Alan Brunettin ©2004. This page: Anyone who has been to St. Faced with their city’s fragmentation, St. Louisans cherish the great
Construction of the parking lot on the site of the
Century Building. Photo taken July 2, 2006.
Louis knows two things about it: public buildings still standing. These structures connect them to a
Alan Brunettin ©2006. it is a city rich in architectural rapidly disappearing past and represent options for adaptive reuse

page 15
in the future. With indications demolition from a local battle into a
that St. Louis is now adding national scandal was the role of the
population for the first time National Trust for Historic Preserva-
since 1950, the availability of
unique, beautiful, solid build-
The demolition of tion. Distraught over the city’s
actions, St. Louis preservationists
ings is emerging as the city’s the Century Building looked to their national allies for
foremost advantage.
resulted from a perfect support. After all, the National
Trust’s own advertising asserts that
Anatomy of a storm of bad decisions, “No one looks back fondly on the

and the episode offers

Preservation Fight time they spent in a parking
When the Downtown Now! garage.” Preservationists naturally
Coalition released its Down- a case study of what assumed the Trust stood by its

can go wrong in
town Plan in 1999, there was words.
reason for optimism. Noting the When first confronted with the
ugly history of demolition and
fragmentation behind them,
historic preservation DESCO-DFC plan, the Trust
unequivocally opposed the sacrifice
planners clearly recognized the despite decades of of the Century Building. In a Janu-
path forward was in adaptive
reuse of the city’s remaining
accumulated wisdom ary 2001 letter to the Missouri Gen-
eral Services Administration (own-
historic buildings. Unfortunate- in best practices. er of the OPO), Midwest Trust
ly, the Francis Slay administra- Director Royce Yeater challenged
tion quickly betrayed the vision the parties to find a new parking
laid out in the Downtown Plan solution. Yeater concluded, “preser-
and in 2001 began to work vationists never like the prospect of
feverishly for the demolition of trading one potentially historic
one of the city’s greatest com- building for another.” Besides,
mercial structures. alternative parking provisions
The buildings under fire were the Old the new home for the Missouri Eastern Dis- abound in downtown St. Louis, with ten
Post Office (OPO) and the Century Build- trict Court of Appeals and an extension of underused parking facilities in the ten blocks
ing. Designed by federal architect Alfred the suburban campus of Webster Universi- surrounding the Old Post Office.
Mullet and constructed between 1877 and ty. They would demolish the Century Build- Like all demolition schemes that involve
1884, the Old Post Office is a somber pile of ing to erect a parking garage. According to federal money and historic properties, the
grey limestone in the Second Empire style. It officials in the Slay administration, the OPO plan triggered a routine Section 106
served as the city’s main postal station until future tenants demanded adjacent parking review in court. During the hearings, Land-
1937. Across the street from the OPO stood “within view” of the OPO. The decision to marks Association representatives argued
the Century Building, designed by the firm of “sacrifice” the Century to this end was a that the developers should be barred from
Raeder, Coffin, and Crocker and completed “tough choice,” they said, but was the only receiving tax credits because the project
in 1896. With its massive Beaux-Arts façade, way the project could work. included the demolition of a building listed
the Century was one of the few remaining Preservationists didn’t buy it. The Land- on the National Register. The city and the
marble-clad buildings in the United States. marks Association of St. Louis—the group developers countered that the demolition of
But for preservationists, the Century’s real that had originally saved the Old Post Office the Century Building and the redevelopment
value was its part in an ensemble of superb from the scrap heap in the 1960s—found the of the Old Post Office were technically sepa-
buildings, comprising a remarkably intact, idea that the Century Building had to be rate projects. Since the tax credits would only
early-twentieth-century civic landscape in destroyed to save the OPO patently untrue. fund the renovations of the OPO, the city was
downtown St. Louis. The adjacent area was already in redevelop- therefore free to dispense with the Century
Recognizing the buildings’ potential for ment. Viable alternatives did exist, and repu- Building as it saw fit. Though a cynical politi-
adaptive reuse, the city’s Downtown Plan pro- table developers advanced efforts to save the cal maneuver, it fell just within the law. The
vided explicit directions to reject all future Century, but the Slay administration courts ruled in favor of demolition, and the
demolitions within a three-block radius of the squelched them. The city had chosen its project was clear to proceed.
OPO. But the Slay administration soon defied developers and would not budge.
the recommendations of its own committee. To seasoned preservationists, such A Betrayal of Trust
In 2001, city officials announced that they intransigence on the part of city officials was Throughout 2003 and into 2004, preser-
had chosen a development team—DESCO, a routine feature of St. Louis political culture. vationists in St. Louis stepped up efforts to
Inc. and DFC, Inc.—to renovate the OPO as But what transformed the Century Building save the Century Building. Unable to sway

page 16
city officials and DESCO-DFC from their sin-
gle-minded devotion to demolition, preserva-
tionists turned to their old allies at the
National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Top: With a wrecking ball poised above its corner, the Century Building waits. Bottom: A local
They were shocked, however, to find that the architectural salvage company at work, with permision to remove the historical ornamentation from the
Trust had become complicit in the scheme. Century Building prior to demolition. Both images by Alan Brunettin ©2004.
In June of 2004, the Landmarks Associa-
tion discovered that the National Trust had
decided to provide gap financing for the proj-
ect: $6.9 million in tax credits. Not only had
the Trust refused to intervene in support of
its old allies; it was actively working against
them, backing a local redevelopment coalition
that was openly hostile to the local preserva-
tion movement. As policy analyst Kevin
Priestner put it, the Trust’s move constituted
an “egregious act of mission drift.”
St. Louis preservation advocates were
bewildered. “For the National Trust to capitu-
late to the expediency of the moment simply
makes no sense,” noted Landmarks Associa-
tion Executive Director Carolyn Toft in a St.
Louis Post-Dispatch article. Toft charged that
National Trust president Richard Moe’s actions
undercut two decades of close collaboration
and mutual support between local preserva-
tionists and the National Trust. After all, Toft
explained, “we know the building, we know the
neighborhood, we know the downtown.”
Over 3,500 preservationists around the
country signed an online petition in protest.
Many resigned their membership in the
National Trust, charging that it had abdicated
its responsibility not only to St. Louis preser-
vationists, but also to its national constituen-
cy. In his comments on the petition, Michael
Tomlan, director of the Historic Preservation
program at Cornell University, reflects the
exasperation of long-term Trust members:
“The project violates everything the National
Trust is supposed to stand for. They have
gone terribly wrong.”
The Trust closed ranks in response to the
national outcry. Moe released a statement
that demolition of the Century for a parking
garage was the key to revitalizing the entire
OPO district. St. Louis preservationists con-
tended that Moe was relying solely on the
assertion of Mayor Slay, the very person most
zealous about demolition. Most cynically,
Moe parroted the city’s earlier argument that
the National Trust’s award of $6.9 million in
tax credits would only pay for the renovation
of the Old Post Office, not demolition of the

page 17
Century Building. Preservationists around strophic population loss, city officials have Duffy, Robert W. “National Trust Backs
Plan to Raze Building.” St. Louis Post-
the country, according to St. Louis Post-Dis- been slow to move beyond the strategy devel-
Dispatch 29 June 2004.
patch columnist Robert Duffy, regarded this oped in the 1960s and 1970s of competing
last point as transparent semantics: everyone with the suburbs by providing ample parking Duffy, Robert W. “Battle of the
knew full well that the Trust provided the in its dense urban core. The Slay administra- Century.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 July
crucial piece of gap funding for a project that tion in particular has demonstrated an out- 2004: B01.
included demolishing an historic treasure. moded preference for prioritizing short-term
Gratz, Roberta Brandes. “We Don’t
Finally, Moe claimed that since neither real estate deals over long-term planning and
Have Enough Parking.” Planning
the mayor of St. Louis nor the Old Post stewardship. Commissioners Journal 48 (Fall 2002).
Office developers exhibited the political will Whether or not one cares about the Cen-
to locate the parking garage elsewhere, he tury Building as a unique architectural
had no alternative but to support the demoli- accomplishment or as part of the historic Landmarks Association. “Thousands
Rebuke National Trust Over Support
tion plan. Opponents countered that the urban fabric of St. Louis, its demolition sets a
for Demolition of Historic Building.”
Trust also lacked political will, as it refused dangerous precedent. By funding the OPO
Press Release. 12 July 2004.
to challenge a redevelopment scheme that so project, the National Trust has clearly sig-
clearly contravened the principles and best naled its departure from its original mandate,
practices of historic preservation. The Trust, and that it is now in the business of backing Moe, Richard. “Saving Landmark
they argued, could have easily demanded local redevelopment schemes however wit- Buildings Can Require Tough Trade-
offs.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 14 July
retention of the Century as a condition of the less, myopic, and ill-conceived. Worst of all,
2004: B07.
tax credit award. But Trust officials were sin- the actions of the Trust have emboldened
gularly focused on saving Alfred Mullet’s opponents of historic preservation and left Prost, Charlene. “Raze a Building and
Landmark Old Post Office at the Century’s the movement vulnerable to serious attack. Get Tax Credits.” St. Louis Post-
expense. The question now is, if preservationists can Dispatch 4 July 2004: B05.

The best efforts of preservationists in St. no longer trust the Trust, who will be the
Prost, Charlene, and Tim Bryant. “Suit
Louis and around the nation were to no avail. advocate of last resort?
Seeks to Protect Building from Razing
DESCO-DFC moved ahead with the demoli- in Old Post Office Project.” St. Louis
tion of the Century Building, and once again Post-Dispatch 29 May 2003: B2.
the city of St. Louis lost a piece of itself that
can never be replaced. Shinkle, Peter, and Charlene Prost.
“Developer Charges That Threats
Killed Proposal.” St. Louis Post-
Historic Reckoning
Dispatch 22 July 2004: B01.
The decision by the National Trust to
oppose local preservationists and to back the
city’s redevelopment scheme is one of the
most significant in the history of the organiza-
tion. The Trust’s actions left the Landmarks
Association high and dry, setting the local
preservation movement back twenty years.
Virtually any other major city would have
treasured the Century as an opportunity for
innovative adaptive reuse. Portfolios of his-
toric buildings are fueling the current renais-
sance of cities like Boston, Milwaukee, Pitts-
burgh, and Providence. In Providence, for
example, the city government has committed
substantial resources to historic preservation
and has established progressive cultural and
housing policies that encourage socio-eco-
nomic diversity. In fact, as urban journalist
Roberta Gratz argues, most cities today view
parking shortages as a sign that their down-
towns are on the upswing.
But St. Louis is a city mired in old ways Opposite page: photo by William Herman Rau,
January 21, 1896. No. 534. The Library of Congress,
of doing business. Still in shock over its cata- Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection.

page 18
historic preservation by Jeff Pooley

Will Bethlehem Turn

Steel into Gold?
By the end of the year, Bethlehem’s famous abandoned steel mill could be a casino—but
does the city have even better ways to bring in cash?

IF THE SLOW DEATH OF BETHLEHEM STEEL WAS TRAGEDY, For most of the 20th century, Bethlehem Steel was a Fortune 500
then the imminent slots-and-lofts redevelopment of its idled riverside icon, the world’s second biggest steel company. Its workers supplied
steelworks is farce. the steel for many of the bridges, tunnels, and skyscrapers that occu-
Located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, the company operated its py our collective memory—the Golden Gate and George Washington
hometown plant until 1996. The acres of abandoned industry were, for Bridges, the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, the Lincoln and
a few short years, the stuff of coffee-table nostalgia and regional despair. Holland Tunnels, among others—and armed the nation for both
Despite the downer vibe and lost-hope dereliction, outside developers World Wars. The Steel lavishly compensated its executives: in 1956 it
(and city boosters) saw potential and began circling covetously. paid nine out of the twelve top salaries in American business. Its
Today, a consortium of developers led by casino giant Las Vegas thousands of laborers were not treated as well, but they won union
Sands plans to turn 120 acres of abandoned foundries and blast fur- recognition during World War II, and by the mid-1970s were among
naces into a theme-park mix of stores, apartments, and a casino the highest paid industrial workers in the world. By then, the compa-
hotel. In just a decade, “The Steel” will have gone from functioning ny employed 115,000 workers, and its Bethlehem operations
industrial plant to a haven for yuppies with lattes, waylaying plans stretched for five miles along the Lehigh.
to preserve it as a symbol of post-industrial American decay. By tak- But then the hemorrhaging began. A combination of factors,
ing advantage of the surrounding area’s boom, redevelopment of including overseas competition, reduced demand, upstart American
the steelworks may compress the transformation process many old- firms, and the company’s gilded executive culture, left Bethlehem Steel
er industrial cities have experienced, skipping the stage in which reeling by the late 1970s. In August of 1977, over 7,000 blue-collar
hipsters and artists make a neighborhood attractive enough that workers were laid off—though it was, tellingly, the September 30 layoff
they will no longer be able to afford to live there. of 2,500 white-collar workers that is remembered as “Black Friday.” Bil-
ly Joel’s 1983 single “Allentown” made the Bethlehem layoffs infamous:
The Steel’s Rise and Fall “Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time / filling out forms / standing in
The Steel emerged in late-19th-century Bethlehem, a city domi- line.” (The song was reportedly inspired by Bethlehem, not nearby
nated by the Moravian Church, which had settled there in 1741. Its Allentown, but a song named for Bethlehem would, presumably, have
two anchor institutions gave the city a bipolar character: starched been read as heavy-handed religious allegory.) By 1984, the company’s
and ecclesiastical north of the Lehigh River, grimy and profane to employee ranks had plummeted to 48,500.
the south. The divide was mirrored in the Bethlehem population, The company limped along until 2001, when it finally declared
with the old Pennsylvania Dutch settlers to the north, and Eastern bankruptcy. Its remnants were purchased by the lean, privately owned
and Southern European steel immigrants to the south. International Steel Group shortly after bankruptcy allowed the com-
pany to shirk its pension obligations, a move arts-and-crafts “Christkindlmarkt,” and an 81- tive, meanwhile, launched ambitious plans
since echoed by other faltering companies. foot-high “Star of Bethlehem” atop the city’s for a “National Museum of Industrial Histo-
The international steel market had trans- South Mountain. Today, the Moravian’s 18th- ry” to be housed in the colossal Machine
formed the Bethlehem works into a vast century church and namesake college buildings Shop No. 2, which, when it was erected in
brownfield. are the core of a picturesque boutique-lined 1890, was the world’s largest industrial
downtown. A postcard in stone and mortar, it is space. The NMIH even earned a first-ever
City Slicker surrounded by a well maintained residential Smithsonian “affiliation,” though that didn’t
The city’s current post-steel revival is the district of 19th-century mansions. translate into federal funding.
product of another outside market—New The city’s “South Side,” home to the In 2004, the National Trust for Historic
York City. New York is just 60 miles down I- steelworks, Lehigh University, and crowded Preservation named the steelworks as one of
78, a drive lined by in-built and pricey New working-class rowhouses is now experiencing America’s eleven “most endangered historic
Jersey suburbs. Real estate arbitrage—the its own revival. Artists began moving to the places” and profiled the site in its May/June
large gap between New Jersey’s overheated South Side in growing numbers over the last 2005 Preservation magazine cover story. A
housing market and the Lehigh Valley’s still decade, in a now-clichéd pattern played out in grassroots advocacy group called “Save Our
modest costs—has exerted its predictable the aging, post-industrial districts of other Steel,” formed out of the steelworker commu-
magnetism over developers, resulting in the Northeastern cities. The South Side, in the nity, has pursued the tightwire goal of a “his-
same farms-to-McMansion makeover that first years of the new millennium, started to torically sensitive redevelopment” of the
has transformed the outlying districts of most look like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ten years site—lending cautious support to developer
large American cities in recent years. In the ago: vinyl siding neighbored restored brick, proposals that, at one time or another,
Valley’s case, the especially steep New York goateed hipsters frequented art galleries, and appeared on the cusp of groundbreaking
prices and proximity to Philadelphia have cheap restaurants were opened in buildings In the fall of 2004, after a decade of
accelerated the acre-devouring sprawl, mak- exhibiting signs of recent distress. Vacant scrapped plans and false starts, city officials,
ing it the fastest-growing region in Pennsyl- industrial buildings were renovated for lofts NIMH backers, and local preservationists
vania. The Valley’s average home price and street-level bohemia. alike applauded the announcement that a
jumped 60 percent in the last five years, to prominent, New York-heavy development
$218,000, in the first half of 2006. And the Packaging Nostalgia team calling itself “BethWorks Now” had
trend shows no sign of cooling. For all of the city’s good news, north and bought the 120 core acres of the site from
Many of the Valley’s new residents are south, the steelworks remains a brownfield. Steel corporate successor ISG for a reported
well-off professionals, who have pushed the A number of ambitious plans for redevelop- $3 million. The buyers included Barry Gosin
region’s average household income to over ment had been proposed after its final, mid- and his gargantuan New York-based New-
$71,043, according to the Lehigh Develop- 1990s shuttering, but each fell apart. mark Group. Gosin is famous for his trendy
ment Corporation. The newly attractive Even as development stalled, the same makeovers of aging New York industrial
demographics have yielded four separate pro- years witnessed steady growth in packaged neighborhoods, including, almost single-
posals to build “lifestyle centers,” the indus- nostalgia for the Steel, its industrial legacy, handedly, DUMBO in Brooklyn. And Gosin
try’s euphemism for upscale malls that mim- and the steelworks themselves. Two glossy has been effusive in his public pronounce-
ic traditional streetscapes. The Lehigh Valley photo collections have, in the last few years, ments. This summer, for example, he told a
has become, almost overnight, one big exurb. joined John Strohmeyer’s classic account of group of prominent Lehigh Valley business
Most exurbs, though, don’t have three grit- the company’s demise, Crisis in Bethlehem. leaders that he was “overcome by emotion”
ty, post-industrial cities (Bethlehem, Allentown, The local newspaper published a thick com- when he first visited the site. “I want to some-
and Easton) in their midst. The same kind of memorative, “Forging America,” in late 2003 day be able to bring my granddaughter there
arbitrage pressure that produced the Lehigh and followed it up a few months later with a and say, ‘I did this,’” said Gosin.
Valley housing boom began to act on the cities slickly produced DVD. A former Steel execu- The development plan pressed all the
themselves: “used” homes in the city cores
started to look like bargains compared to the
new developments on their outskirts. Bethle- The familiar, stage-by-stage progression
hem capitalized on the region’s new edge-city
of gentrification—first, the edgy pioneers,
dynamism to start its own renaissance. Initially,
Bethlehem survived the lost jobs and decreased
then the young professionals who love
tax dollars by shifting attention from the steel- them, and after a long interval, the
works to its Moravian community in the north. boutiques and brick sidewalks—has, in
With careful preservation, the stewardship of Bethlehem’s case, collapsed due to the
the Moravian Church, and savvy marketing, the
city successfully re-branded itself as “Christmas
rapid boom of the surrounding area.
City,” complete with seasonal pageantry, an

page 20
The now-empty Number 2 Machine Shop, one of the largest industrial buildings in the world when it was built. This is the building they are
proposing to make the centerpiece of the industrial museum for exhibits. Photo ©Shaun O’Boyle.

right historical buttons. There was, for exam- the existing investors. This was, to put it and investment, host communities are guar-
ple, a pledge to preserve the iconic, seven- mildly, a bombshell. Here was the fastest anteed, by law, an annual $10 million pay-
teen-story high blast furnaces, the Machine growing gambling company in the world pro- ment from each slots operator.
Shop No. 2, and the iron foundry. The plan, posing a $350 million slots parlor and con- Thanks to revenue projections and the
to be sure, called for a predictable mix of the vention center as the centerpiece of a New Jersey border, the Lehigh Valley has
upscale and voguish development that would revamped plan, now worth $879 million. been widely viewed as an odds-on favorite for
make it profitable—with over 700 lofts, an Las Vegas Sands is best known for its one of these two licenses. The prospect of all
entertainment center (with “cool bowling “Renaissance Venice”-themed Venetian Casi- that one-armed Lehigh Valley banditry
alleys”), one or two hotels, and the requisite no on the Las Vegas Strip, which boasts a attracted not just Las Vegas Sands, but three
“lifestyle center.” Still, the group’s preserva- full-scale Ducal Palace, working gondolas, other out-of-state gambling concerns with
tionist bona fides and ready capital assuaged and a Guggenheim Museum franchise. their own elaborate proposals for develop-
the concerns of most steelworks stakehold- While Bethlehem is a long way from Las ments in Bethlehem and nearby Allentown.
ers. Save Our Steel almost immediately Vegas, recent Pennsylvania legislation autho- By May of 2005, Las Vegas Sands had
endorsed the developers and their proposal. rizing slot gambling gave the two cities some- unexpectedly acquired a majority stake in the
thing in common. Legislators voted in 2004 BethWorks Now investment team. The new
An Unexpected Plot Twist to award fourteen slot licenses across the plan, in addition to the hotel casino, called for
Enter the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Just state. Since twelve of the licenses were effec- at least 400 more lofts—and Disney-esque
four months after the original BethWorks tively spoken for, the new law has set off a touches like climbing walls, boat rides, a
plan was announced, the $16 billion casino statewide scramble for the two remaining restored elevated railway, and light shows
giant quietly revealed that it planned to join stand-alone licenses. In addition to the jobs said to evoke the steelmaking process.

page 21
Fewer historic buildings would be pre- the local arts community for a future arena high-end makeover already underway and
served under this new Sands-led plan. Machine and performing arts center. entomb the once grand and gritty Bethlehem
Shop No. 2 would be saved, but no longer set More than 1,400 residents on both sides Steel works in market-tested urban chic and
aside for the industrial museum; instead, the of the slots issue crowded into two Council glittery casino lights. More people may be
“steel cathedral,” as it has been called, would forums that summer. At the July forum, the taking their Christmas breaks in Bethlehem
house a mix of lofts and high-end retail. The Reverend Gary Straughan, president of the in coming years—not for the city’s carefully
museum would move to a much smaller near- Eastern District of the Moravian Church in cultivated religious imagery, but rather for
by structure. “We’ve talked to the retailers,” North America, spoke on behalf of Citizens the irresistible spectacle of a flashy casino 60
Gosin told the local newspaper at the time. for a Better Bethlehem. “We all know that miles from New York City. One hopes for
“They tell us, ‘If the Venetian comes, we’ll there is something inherently evil about Bethlehem’s sake that five years from now a
come.’ ... If I tell them the Museum of Indus- gambling,” he said. “Don’t exchange the Star new casino developer does not find an even
trial History is going to be the anchor tenant, of Bethlehem for the neon lights surround- sexier site a few miles closer in, with a bigger
they’re not going to come.” ing slot machines and beckoning those climbing wall and longer boat ride.
instant riches.”
Resistance Mounts The City Council, after a summer of bitter
Preservationists were frustrated by the debate, voted 4-3 to reject the anti-gambling
revamped plans. “We were very disappointed zoning proposal in September. Gambling
“Forging America: The History of
because they were quite a bit different from would be permitted in Christmas City, and now Bethlehem Steel.” The Morning Call 14
the earlier sketches, which looked pretty sensi- both sides awaited the state’s decision. Dec. 2003: S1.
tive to the history of the site,” Mike Kramer,

co-founder of Save Our Steel, told local report- Bethlehem’s Star Ascends bethsteel

ers. “It looked to us to be a basic mall design.” The Lehigh Valley rarely surfaces in the
Hurley, Amanda Kolson. “Industrial
More worrisome to the Sands and its national media, so The New York Times’ late- Strength: Can the Remnants of
partners was the growing and organized December 2005 story on the region’s resur- Bethlehem Steel Be Reborn?”
resistance of religious groups. Polls taken gent cities stood out. Headlined “Shaking Preservation May/June 2005: 32-37.
over the summer of 2005 showed city resi- Off the Rust, New Suburbs Are Born,” the

dents split on the gambling proposal—with article claimed that the Valley’s cities were
Save Our Steel
some calling the slots parlor a threat to attracting “an influx of middle-class New
Bethlehem’s carefully cultivated (and sea- Yorkers” who were “bringing their cosmo-
sonally lucrative) “Christmas City” image. politan tastes with them.” In breathless Strohmeyer, John. Crisis in Bethlehem:
In the wake of the Sands deal, two anti- prose, the story cited $1,200 designer quilts Big Steel’s Struggle to Survive.

gambling groups formed: “Citizens for a and $800 end tables made of steel beams Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh
Press, 1994.
Better Bethlehem” and “Valley Citizens for on sale, as the Times put it, in the “shadow
Casino-Free Development.” Neither group of the hulking industrial carcass” of Bethle-
is explicitly religious, but personnel and hem Steel.
non-profit records reveal that both have While the steelworks project remains in
clear ties to the Moravian Church and the limbo, Bethlehem’s South Side continues to
Valley’s evangelical community. gentrify. The familiar, stage-by-stage progres-
Also during the summer, two Bethlehem sion of gentrification—first, the edgy pio-
City Councilmen—one a Moravian minister, neers, then the young professionals who love
the other an attorney for the Catholic Diocese them, and after a long interval, the boutiques
of Allentown—proposed a zoning change and brick sidewalks—has, in Bethlehem’s
that would ban gambling on the steelworks case, collapsed due to the rapid boom of the
site, which was backed by the two activist surrounding area. One local developer envi-
groups. In response, BethWorks and the sioned his $30 million South Side loft reno-
Sands hired a veteran Harrisburg, Pennsylva- vation as a rental property, but as it nears
nia, lobbying firm and launched a charm completion, over half of its units have already
offensive that included a twelve-page news- sold as condos. The developer expects to sell
paper insert, door-to-door canvassing, and an them all before opening—and his is just one
automated telephone campaign (complete of many upscale projects underway in the old
with phone patch-throughs to the City Coun- steelworkers’ sloped neighborhood.
cil switchboard). The investor team gave Pennsylvania is expected to award the
$50,000 to the city’s popular MusikFest, and coveted slots licenses in late 2006. A victory
donated 3.5 acres of Bethlehem Steel land to for the BethWorks team would accelerate the

page 22
historic preservation by Jeffrey Chusid

Preservation in the
Progressive City:
Debating History and
Gentrification in Austin
A city taskforce, spurred on by activists, planned to save East Austin by rolling back
historic preservation laws

MOST RESIDENTS CONSIDER AUSTIN, Texas, an enlightened, Springs (SOS) Ordinance through a citizen initiative. State lawmakers
progressive city. Home to one of the nation’s premier research uni- and local developers, however, passed legislation rendering the SOS
versities, a renowned live music scene, Lance Armstrong, and the ordinance largely ineffective. At the end of the decade, Austin
homegrown Dell Corporation, this blue dot in a red state has consis- responded by adopting a set of planning incentives under the rubric
tently ranked high in various surveys of “best places to live in Ameri- of Smart Growth; instead of restricting development in ecologically
ca.” But its political maverick status has frequently put the city on a sensitive areas, they would reward developers for building in non-sen-
collision course with conservative state legislators, who seem to have sitive areas.
a penchant for passing bills that reverse city ordinances. Smart Growth, however, had a rocky reception. Initially, historic
One such case recently led to a major battle in Austin over gentri- preservation advocates perceived it as a devious strategy for develop-
fication and historic preservation—a five-year long public controversy ers to gain access to historic districts, and as a threat to neighborhood
that generated several task forces and expert studies, as well as character across the city. But the more resounding outcry came from
uncounted pages of newspaper coverage. In the process, the debate community groups in East Austin, who perceived that Smart Growth
nearly terminated the city’s 30-year-old practice of protecting historic encouraged construction in their neighborhoods—neighborhoods
properties, pitted neighbor against neighbor, and brought into public that are poorer and have larger minority populations than elsewhere
discourse some unpleasant realities about modern American urban in the city.
life from which most Austinites probably imagined themselves East Austin lies on one side of Interstate 35, a major north-south
immune. The story of this debate underscores the complex relation- artery that bisects Austin geographically, historically, and socially.
ship between gentrification and preservation, and how difficult it can West of the line, the fragile, dry, and rocky landscape advances toward
be to measure their relationship. Ultimately, the Austin debate out- the High Plains, while to the east, rolling prairie and bottomlands
lines ways in which preservation can be used to combat displacement mark a landscape of deep soils and plentiful water. Cotton and South-
and a loss of cultural identity, but it also demonstrates the limitations ern Plantation culture, which included slavery, ran from the Atlantic
faced by an individual municipality attempting to counter national— all the way to Austin’s central divide. West of the divide, where ranch-
even global—economic and political forces. ing predominated, was populated in large part by liberal free-thinkers
who had fled the 19th-century revolutions and counter-revolutions in
A Fractured City Central Europe. As a result, I-35 has come to represent Austin’s politi-
The population of Austin has roughly doubled every twenty years cal and cultural divide, helping to explain its vacillation between con-
since the city was founded in 1836, and that rate of growth is expected servative and liberal viewpoints.
to continue. It is now larger than Boston, Seattle, or Washington, It also explains the divisions between multi-cultural and Anglo-
D.C. The city has sprawled westward across its scenic yet ecologically dominant communities. Minorities have always been part of Austin’s
fragile hill country landscape, which overlies the Edwards Aquifer, a history. African Americans, both slaves and freedmen, had a signifi-
major source of drinking water for the region and of the many cant presence in Austin since its founding. Hispanics historically
springs and creeks that nourish native flora and fauna. To control this accounted for a much smaller percentage of the population, and
growth, Austin’s voters in 1992 adopted the growth-control Save Our when their numbers started increasing in the late 19th century, the

page 23
East Austin is characterized by tree-shaded neighborhoods made up
of modest homes with long, rich histories. Photos by Natalie Charles.

page 24
city drove them out. Despite several well This widespread and benign public per- listened, as did several other council mem-
established freedmen communities in the ception of East Austin was soon loudly chal- bers. Over the next several years, the city
western part of the city, including Clarksville, lenged, however, by People in Defense of the established two citizen task forces and con-
which would later become one of Austin’s Earth and Her Resources (PODER), a group ducted at least two internal staff studies of
first National Register Districts, in 1928 the of local activists. Formed in the mid-1990s to the matter. They examined gentrification in
city adopted a new Master Plan that segregat- force the removal of a leaking gasoline tank East Austin, the impact of historic designa-
ed public facilities, and which urged that “all farm endangering the health of East Austin tions and other preservation policies on hous-
undesirables”—meaning both industrial uses residents, PODER, in an unrelenting drum- ing prices and displacement, and whether to
and minority citizens—be moved to East beat of press releases, testimony at public rewrite or abandon historic tax exemptions—
Austin. City officials implemented the plan hearings, special events, and interviews, or even scrap the city’s historic preservation
successfully, and most blacks who had been painted a completely different picture of East ordinance altogether. A steady stream of arti-
living in the western half of the city were Austin development. PODER described an cles in the Austin American-Statesman, the
“relocated” back to the former plantation “influx of wealthy whites” who were “displac- weekly Austin Chronicle, and the University
lands, on the other side of I-35—what was ing the traditional black and Hispanic com- of Texas’s Daily Texan kept the issue in the
then a broad boulevard called East Avenue. munities.” East Austin, they claimed, had public’s consciousness, and other public and
Austin became a segregated city, with an been “marketed to affluent, largely Anglo, private entities entered the fray, from the
eastern half composed of isolated pockets of home buyers,” and growing real estate val- Heritage Society, which hosted a public sym-
European settlement, such as Swede Hill, ues, combined with the historic preservation posium on gentrification, to the Capital Met-
surrounded by growing communities of Afri- and Smart Growth policies, had resulted in ropolitan Transit Authority, which issued a
can Americans and Hispanics. “gentrification.” large report in 2005 on “best practices” to
PODER’s Exhibit A was the wholesale combat gentrification.
Clashing Perspectives rehabilitation of historic residences, which
on Neighborhood Growth not only allowed whites and “well-heeled pro- Upon Closer Examination
Fast forward to 2000. Austin is Richard fessionals” to play with bargain-priced attrac- Many of PODER’s alarms seemed real at
Florida’s poster child for the New Creative tive homes, but led to a rise in property val- first. East Austin’s African-American popula-
Class. Its citizens have the 9th highest medi- ues that “mess[ed] with everyone’s tax base … tion had dropped by over 25 percent since
an income in the country according to 2000 as much as a mile around,” said PODER 1980, while the white population in at least
Census figures. In East Austin, Smart founder Susana Almanza, in an interview in one neighborhood near downtown increased
Growth has been adopted, a redevelopment a Ford Foundation newsletter. This drove out by 30 percent. Property values—and property
agency has been established, and the city air- the very working-class population that built taxes—doubled in East Austin between 1990
port has been moved ten miles to the south- East Austin’s neighborhoods. According to and 2003, with the values of historic homes
east while its former East Austin site is mas- PODER, new owners of historic properties in East Austin increasing even more. Over
ter planned as a “New Urbanist” community. also received huge, permanent, historic prop- the next several years, however, as the city
At the same time, in just 30 years, Austin erty tax exemptions, while poor folk sur- staff studies analyzed the meaning of these
has gone from the city with the best hous- rounding the upgraded homes not only had numbers and their relationship to gentrifica-
ing affordability index in the country to the to pay more for the enhanced value of their tion, a different picture began to emerge.
most expensive housing market in Texas, own, less attractive, houses, but then had to The African-American population in Aus-
and one of the most expensive of any large make up the missing tax revenue lost to the tin had actually been in decline for years,
non-coastal U.S. city. East Austin neigh- exemption. “That’s the main thing that is dis- marked by a steady flight to surrounding sub-
borhoods, only a few blocks from a grow- placing people and making them feel that urbs. This exodus began well before 1990
ing downtown and an enormous universi- they have no choice but to sell out,” said and had actually resulted in scattered areas of
ty, are increasingly seen as hip and Almanza. vacant houses throughout East Austin. In a
funky—the place to go for entertainment, PODER’s anti-gentrification, anti-historic perverse way, the effective end of segregation
great food, and a cute, affordable house. preservation campaign got results. Several in the 1960s and ’70s made many of the
Crime rates are relatively low, and gang Austin City Council members took the claims community’s cultural institutions, from jazz
activity is negligible, and although the seriously, and the city held a series of public clubs to black colleges, both less necessary
schools are poor, that doesn’t seem to deter hearings and Council discussions on the top- and less viable. At the same time, neither
musicians, grad students, or young profes- ic. Publicly, everyone in City Hall expressed true integration nor a new set of institutions
sionals from contemplating a move east. dismay at the situation. Preservation groups rose in their stead, leaving the community
Inadequate local services and a dearth of and city staff, however, quietly pleaded for a adrift. As one ex-resident said in a radio inter-
supermarkets matter little to residents more careful analysis. Mayor Will Wynn, an view, “There’s nothing here for us.”
with cars, and improved goods and servic- architecture school graduate and former Meanwhile, the supposed white influx
es are following the new populations to the board member of the Heritage Society of into East Austin was actually an overall
area anyway. Austin, the city’s main preservation group, decline during the 1990s, from 24 to 17 per-

page 25
cent of area population. East Austin did expe- Preservation Taskforce” to further investigate
rience a significant increase in Hispanic pop- the matter. In fact, the new taskforce had a
ulation, however, from 30 to over 50 percent clearly broader charge than East Austin gen-
of area residents, doubling in actual num- trification. It included, explicitly and implicit-
bers. Property values did skyrocket, but they ly, reviewing how much the city was losing by
still lagged behind increases in the rest of the granting preservation tax abatements, and
city, and East Austin homes, at a 2005 medi- finding ways to change the Landmarks Com-
an price of $103,000, remained considerably mission to make them less obstreperous and
cheaper than the city’s median home price of more sympathetic to developers. For almost a
$155,000. Despite increases in property val- year, the taskforce, primarily made up of city
ues and taxes, East Austin homeownership commissioners, developers, and lawyers,
levels remained roughly constant at 44 per- examined every aspect of historic preserva-
cent throughout the boom, a proportion that tion in Austin and seemingly came extremely
still leads the city. close to recommending an end to preserva-
Most importantly from the point of view tion as a city policy. Several taskforce mem-
of the preservation community, historic bers were not terribly subtle about seeing
homes turned out to be irrelevant either as a their job as putting a halt to a string of recent
factor in tax assessments or as a drain on the preservation victories. Only an enormous
public weal. In fact, only 28 properties in East Gabia Alejo with her parents, Jose and Tomasa, in front of the East effort by a handful of preservation advocates
Austin home that Gabia is fixing up. Photo by Natalie Charles.
Austin were designated as landmarks and eli- and professionals, working nights and week-
gible for a tax exemption, out of a total of ends, holding meetings, writing letters and
13,823 parcels. white papers, and attending public hearings,
Overall, the various city staff studies sug- influenced the taskforce enough to keep pres-
Ultimately, the Austin
gested that historic preservation played a rela- ervation policies in Austin alive.
tively minor role in East Austin’s evolution.
debate outlines ways in The taskforce made several significant
One study even concluded that preservation which preservation can changes to Austin’s preservation regulations;
could help in conserving ethnic communities be used to combat however, the degree to which the resulting
and their institutions, and in maintaining displacement and a loss changes in the preservation ordinance have
affordable housing. Evidence of this phenom- of cultural identity, but weakened preservationists remains to be
enon came from property value assessments it also demonstrates the seen. The city greatly reduced the automatic
in two East Austin National Register Historic limitations faced by an tax exemption granted to all new historically
Districts. National Register districts in Austin individual municipality designated properties. (Interestingly, the 1981
adhere to voluntary design guidelines and attempting to counter Austin Preservation Plan had predicted this
oversight from the city’s Landmarks Com- national—even global— change, identifying the practice of tax exemp-
mission, but the properties do not get tax tions as divisive and a disincentive for the city
economic and political
breaks. Even though residents of the two dis- to designate properties.) The taskforce also
tricts pulled a higher number of building per- recommended reducing the number of mem-
mits than the rest of East Austin, home pric- bers and eliminating seats reserved for spe-
es actually rose slightly less than the area cific professional representatives on the
average. In fact, the historic district status itly identifies districts as powerful mecha- Landmarks Commission. More importantly,
mitigated market pressures because it disal- nisms for maintaining affordable housing, the city significantly tightened the criteria by
lows the high-density construction that their because they prevent indiscriminate demoli- which a property could become an Austin
proximity to downtown would suggest as the tions and unsympathetic or out-of-scale addi- landmark.
“highest and best use” for the land. tions and infill construction. An East Austin While PODER, developers, and most
The protection from skyrocketing hous- community leader has stated that historic dis- elected officials were trying to weaken preser-
ing prices has not been lost on other inhabit- tricts may also halt the influx of sub-standard vation in Austin, many neighborhood associ-
ants of East Austin. Since the adoption of housing built by absentee landlords. ations and community groups used the task-
Austin’s new Neighborhood Planning frame- force as an opportunity to expand preserva-
work, all of the five plans produced by East Turning a Taskforce tion protections considerably. Austin’s four-
Austin neighborhoods have called for updat- to Better Ends teen National Register districts bestow pres-
ed historic resources surveys, increased des- Despite early results from the studies tige on the city and a measure of protection
ignations of individual buildings and local revealing little connection between gentrifica- from federally funded projects, but what Aus-
districts as historic, rehabilitation incentives, tion and historic preservation, in 2003, the tin had always lacked was a local historic dis-
and preservation education. One plan explic- City Council decided to form a “Historic trict designation, which is the only real pro-

page 26
tection for a neighborhood on a day-to-day could only be built in areas specifically zoned Bingamon, Brant. “PODER vs. H-
Zoning: Ready for Round Two?” Austin
basis. Local designation can be enforced as residential. That helped subdivision devel-
Chronicle 1 Nov. 2002.
where it counts: at the building department opers, but not the cause of affordable hous-
where demolition and alteration permits are ing. The final major issue is the clouded legal
issued. The head of the taskforce had long title of much East Austin real estate, a legacy Carlson, Neil. “Urban Gentry: What
opposed local districts, however, so it was a of Mexican land grants, the Civil War, and Happens When a Neighborhood Starts
bit of sweet irony for Austin preservationists poverty. Legal questions make homeowners to Sell Its Soul?” Ford Foundation
Report Online Spring 2003.
that there was near unanimous support for ineligible for regular mortgages, and even
these districts on the taskforce; they were more importantly, for the myriad property tax
both recommended and implemented. exemptions offered by city and state. While City of Austin. “Gentrification
Now all existing Austin National Register preservation can provide a powerful set of Committee Report.” 14 June 2001.
districts can become local historic districts once tools and design approaches for urban design
they fulfill the new regulatory requirements, and economic development, it is still only one
such as preparing design standards for new con- relatively modest part of the kind of compre-
City of Austin Neighborhood Housing
struction and alterations in concert with the hensive, multi-pronged strategy needed to and Community Development
city’s historic preservation officer. The local ordi- combat gentrification. Department. “Community Preservation
nance thus provides a much greater incentive Today, although both PODER and the and Revitalization Program
for neighborhoods to create their own districts. preservationists remain polarized, they share Implementation: Recommendations.”
Draft Report. 28 July 2005.
In East Austin, these districts could potentially a common desire to save communities: their housing/
include a dozen or more individual neighbor- physical character, traditions, institutions, publications.htm
hoods. A sampling of potential local district and inhabitants. The mere mention of gentri-
resources include areas of larger, well estab- fication has so inflamed the discussion in City of Austin. “Staff Task Force on
lished homes dating back to the 1870s; shotgun Austin, however, as in other cities around the Gentrification in East Austin: Finding
and Recommendations.” 13 Mar. 2003.
houses or simple craftsman-style workers cottag- country, that stereotypes and political grand- housing/
es from the early 20th century; the campus of standing have obscured the facts and tangible
historically black Huston-Tillotson College; the impacts on real people. Austin succeeded, at
old Oakwood cemetery; 19th century commer- least in part, in detaching itself from much of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. “A
cial buildings lining the old railroad tracks; and a the hyperbole by conducting a set of separate, Review of Best Practices for Mitigating
variety of tranquil streetscapes where winding relatively rigorous studies on the intersection Gentrification throughout the
Country.” 15 June 2004.
roads line wild creeks. of gentrification and preservation. The city’s
efforts have suggested that the answer to gen-
Addressing Gentrification trification is not found in broad-brush gener- Kennedy, Maureen, and Paul Leonard.
One Neighborhood at a Time alizations, but rather in analyzing each neigh- Dealing with Neighborhood Change:
In the end, the taskforce’s final report borhood’s specific economic and social con- A Primer on Gentrification and Policy
Choices. Washington, D.C.: The
reflected the preservation community’s active cerns, understanding them as inextricably tied
Brookings Institution Center on Urban
campaign of education and lobbying, and to a complex local history, and devising appro-
and Metropolitan Policy, 2001.
reemphasized three points made by the other priate solutions and strategies responsive to
studies. First, preservation can be of assis- the community’s needs and aspirations.
tance to communities facing gentrification by PODER
saving community institutions and cultural

practices, stabilizing property values, valuing

Sadowsky, Steve. “City of Austin
and protecting affordable working-class hous- Historic Preservation Task Force
ing, and providing financial and technical Report to City Council.” 25 Mar. 2004.
support to low-income owners of historic
properties. Second, significant structural taskforce_rec.pdf

issues still impact East Austin, making it vul-

nerable to gentrification. Ignoring them in
order to attack preservation has served no one
well—least of all the vanishing African-Amer-
ican community. Thirty years ago, just when
Austin was described as “most affordable,”
the city changed its zoning regulations so that
only uses specifically permitted in an area
could be constructed. Consequently, housing

page 27
historic preservation by Robert Garland Thomson

Looking East
The Asian megacity is set to become this century’s predominant urban form, which
means Western preservationists have much to learn from Bangkok, Dhaka, and Mumbai

THE HILLS AND BEACHES OF TODAY’S Indian megacity Mumbai Perceiving the inadequacies of the official process, a local organiza-
were for centuries little more than a series of sleepy islands populated tion, the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), has rallied local plan-
by fishermen and traders plying the eastern shores of the Arabian ners, community leaders, and citizens to take the initiative in preserva-
Sea. Even under British colonial rule (1661-1948), the city was largely tion efforts. The historic value of the area, however, has proven the
characterized by its grand Victorian public buildings, graceful sea- major impediment to engaging community support. For many Indians,
front boulevards, and arcaded shopping districts, particularly around buildings dating from the British period of rule conjure grim recollec-
the Fort district, once the colonial hub of the city and today its central tions of racism, exploitation, and exclusion. At the same time, the swell-
business district. Not until after Indian Independence did Mumbai ing urban populace of Mumbai largely consists of newcomers who
grow into the financial, cultural, and entertainment capital of the might regard the 150-year-old British buildings with disdain or disinter-
world’s second most populous nation. By 2020, the Population Insti- est. Since the historic value could not suffice as a rallying cry for preser-
tute projects Mumbai’s population will reach 28.5 million, surpassing vation efforts, the UDRI had to find creative ways to inject new cultural
Tokyo as the world’s largest city. significance into the old Fort neighborhoods.
Mumbai’s massive growth in the past 50 years exemplifies The UDRI initiated a detailed survey of Kala Ghoda and discov-
Asia’s urban expansion: constantly straining all available resources and ered that the district held Mumbai’s densest collection of art galleries.
services, resulting in vast unregulated development in the form of Seizing upon this distinction, the UDRI helped to establish the Kala
shantytowns and other illicit construction. As Mumbai and other Asian Ghoda Association, an organization of art enthusiasts, business own-
cities grow, their historic colonial and vernacular architectural heri- ers, and concerned citizens, to enhance the district’s visibility and
tage have received little attention. Real estate speculation, infra- encourage appreciation of its built fabric. The annual Kala Ghoda Art
structure development, and a preference for modern forms have Festival, launched in 1998, has been an important tool in this effort,
prevailed over preservation. raising money for preservation efforts and community-based projects
Local historic preservationists, however, have become increas- throughout the district. Since its launch, several buildings, including
ingly adept at working in these booming environments. Bucking the Sasson Library and Elphinstone College buildings, have received
conventional top-down legislative approaches, community-based façade cleanings and some interior restorations. More recently, the
organizations have pioneered more effective tactics for preservation UDRI and Kala Ghoda Association have begun negotiating with the
in Mumbai and elsewhere. Successful strategies from Asian cities owner of Watson’s Hotel—which suffered a partial collapse in 2005
may foretell a new era where Western cities follow their Eastern and which the World Monuments Fund placed on its 2006 World
counterparts’ lead in many aspects of urban management, includ- Monuments Watch list of 100 Most Endangered Sites—to stabilize
ing historic preservation. and restore certain public areas of the much deteriorated building.
Preservation efforts, in short, embraced the rapidly changing
Constructing Cultural Significance nature of Mumbai. By “constructing cultural significance,” UDRI
In Mumbai, community-focused projects have concentrated on the executive director Rahul Mehrotra argues, preservationists can use
southern Fort district and the adjacent Kala Ghoda district, bustling public advocacy to invigorate a community’s appreciation for build-
commercial areas teeming with street hawkers, employees of the near- ings whose origins are so far removed.
by Bombay Stock Exchange, and middle-class residents from the Cola- Eighteen hundred miles away, in another rapidly developing
ba and Marine Drive neighborhoods. The area boasts a dense collection regional hub that has struggled to preserve historic buildings, the
of colonial-era buildings, including Victorian Neo-Gothic gems such as Bangkok Forum has employed similar grassroots techniques. Founded
the Elphinstone College (completed in the 1880s), the David Sasson by Chaiwat Thirapantu, a German-trained local activist, the Forum is a
Library (1870), the Indo-Saracenic Prince of Wales Museum (1914), and citizen’s group that organizes street-level events and public action,
the cast-iron Watson’s Hotel, now called Esplanade Mansion (1869). often around preservation issues, using the publicity from these events
Despite municipal preservation legislation passed in 1995 and the to advance a more pluralistic urban planning process in Bangkok.
numerous agencies charged with monitoring Mumbai’s historically Unlike Mumbai, Bangkok has no colonial legacy—the Kingdom
significant architecture, real estate pressures, community neglect, pol- of Siam, under King Rama I and his Chakri Dynasty, famously evad-
lution, and poor maintenance all take heavy tolls on the buildings. ed European rule. Rama established Bangkok in 1782—then known

page 28
Top: The Teachers’ Council (Khurusapha) Printing House (1930s) in Bangkok’s Banglamphu district in the foreground was the target of the Bangkok
Forum’s community-level activism. Photo courtesy Marc Askew. Bottom: The David Sasson Library (1870) is an excellent example of the eclectic
Colonial-era architecture of the Kala Ghoda district in Mumbai’s Old Fort. Photo by author.

Even in the face of powerful

interests — including development
pressure, neglect, and top-down policy
making — organized citizenry can
reclaim the process of urban change
in their cities.
as Krung Thep—across the Chao Praya River Engaging the public in planning decisions by Askew, Marc. Bangkok: Place, Practice
and Representation. London:
from its predecessor capital, Thon Buri. bestowing new significance on a historic
Routledge, 2002.
Absolute monarchy ended in 1932, but the urban space, however, proves not only a high-
Chakri Dynasty has persisted to this day, ly effective preservation tool, but can give a King, Anthony D. “The Times and
holding a place of prominence over the voice to citizens in the dynamic Asian urban Spaces of Modernity (or Who Needs
decades alongside Thailand’s autocratic and environment. Postmodernism?).” Global Modernities.
democratic leaders. The Thai government has Ed. Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash, and
Roland Robertson. London: Sage
traditionally used historic preservation as a Challenging the Very Notion
Publications, 1995.
vehicle for promotion of the monarchy. As a of the City
result, historic preservation activity in Bang- As the Australian urban designer Richard Logan, William S., ed. The
kok has traditionally been of a top-down Marshall points out in an essay on Asian Disappearing “Asian” City. Oxford:
nature, focusing on royal monuments and megacities, the current urbanization in the Oxford University Press, 2002.

frequently neglecting vernacular architecture East can only challenge “the very notion of
Marshall, Richard. “Asian Megacities.”
and informal urban spaces. the city—what it is, how it works, and the
Shaping the City: Studies in History,
One neighborhood full of such architec- kind of urbanities it is capable of support- Theory and Urban Design. Ed.
ture and spaces is the Banglamphu district. ing.” Although he does not mention it specif- Rodolphe El-Khoury and Edward
An exceptional example of Bangkok’s early ically, one of the “urbanities” that the new Robbins. New York: Routledge, 2004.
urban development, Banglamphu contains a megacity must support is the historic built
Mehrotra, Rahul. “Constructing Cultural
diverse assemblage of temples, mosques, roy- environment. Mumbai and Bangkok demon-
Significance: Looking at Bombay’s
al palaces, shophouses (hybrid commercial/ strate that even in the face of powerful inter- Historic Fort Area.” Future Anterior 1.2
residential spaces), and vernacular wooden ests—including development pressure, (Fall 2004): 24-31.
buildings. neglect, and top-down policy making—orga-
Beginning in 1997, the Bangkok Forum nized citizenry can reclaim the process of United Nations Department of Economic
and Social Affairs, Population Division.
began working with a broad coalition of local urban change in their cities.
World Urbanization Prospects: The
residents, students, and business people to To be sure, many challenges remain. In
2001 Revision. New York: United Nations,
organize and promote a festival in Banglam- Mumbai, a city where over half the residents 2002.
phu. Their aim was both to galvanize com- live in slums or on the street, participation in
munity participation in the district’s future, an arts festival might not represent the most
and to draw attention to a particular building sustainable model for engaging large por-
threatened by demolition: the old Teachers’ tions of the population in historic preserva-
Council (Khurusapha) Printing House, which tion. Nor do the success stories above repre-
dates to the 1930s. Though lacking official sent the norm in the Asian megacity, as any-
historic or aesthetic distinction, the building one observing the sad fate of Beijing’s
nevertheless occupied a prominent position Hutong neighborhoods or Yangon’s colonial
in the neighborhood. The Bangkok Forum’s architecture has witnessed.
coordinated campaign, aided by Silpakorn Nevertheless, as Asian cities come to
University students who gave presentations on define the urban norm in the 21st century,
the building’s early history, ultimately persuad- preservation strategies that work in them
ed the building’s owner, the Treasury Depart- must be highlighted, refined, and shared
ment, to cancel demolition plans. The Khuru- throughout the region. Tactics developed in
sapha Printing House was converted instead the new Asian megacities also have the
into a multi-use community center, supporting potential to make their way back to North
a cafe, library, and performance venue. America and Europe, challenging the tradi-
Like the Kala Ghoda Association and tional conventions of historic preservation
UDRI, the Bangkok Forum’s objectives were practice there. The emerging emphases in
not preservation of historically or architectur- Bangkok and Mumbai on community-level
ally significant buildings per se, but rather the (rather than top-down) action, on negotiat-
empowerment of local communities to direct ing the relationship between the dynamic
change in their surrounding built environ- populace and the static urban environment,
ment. Frequently in Mumbai, Bangkok, and and on accommodating the shifting values
other emerging Asian megacities, the rapid of new constituent communities, all repre-
pace of development, hegemonic role of gov- sent worthy objectives in the West, as well
ernment, and market forces often rob citi- as the East.
zens of their voice in planning decisions.

page 30
historic preservation by Sharon Maclean

Saving High-Rise
Public Housing
After imploding many of its most loathed towers in the 1990s, the Chicago Housing
Authority decided to save two historic developments from the scrap heap

MOST PUBLIC HOUSING IN THE UNITED States is decrepit and Officer for the IHPA, the city’s public housing is “important not only
getting worse. Today, tenants of crumbling garden apartments or to the history of Chicago, but to the whole country.” In light of the
dreary high-rise towers occupy units dating back, in some cases, to Bush administration’s many recent cuts to federal housing program
before the Second World War. The architects and planners responsi- budgets, Chicago’s use of historic preservation tax credits to help
ble for these developments were fueled with purpose: to replace fund housing efforts may signal an alternative for other cities.
squalid tenements with innovative and humane housing. To this end,
they integrated ideas from the progressive Garden City Movement Preservation: A New Strategy
and International Style architecture into their work. Elements of these One of the largest housing authorities in the country, CHA man-
design trends survive in decaying public housing complexes from ages 78 properties and 25,000 tenants, including residences for fami-
coast to coast, representing important aspects of America’s architec- lies and seniors. Traditionally, dilapidated public housing in Chicago
tural heritage. has fallen victim to the wrecking ball, or perhaps worse, to unappeal-
But “the projects” are rarely considered design heirlooms. Years ing exterior alterations. Much has been written about CHA’s razing of
of neglect have taken a toll on garden apartments and “towers in the large-scale high-rises, such as Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor
park” high-rise clusters, stigmatizing both residents and their homes. Homes, and their subsequent “rebirth” as lower density townhouse
The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), however, has realized that developments. But CHA’s new strategy, as detailed in their “Plan for
preserving and rehabilitating some of its historic buildings is a via- Transformation,” approved by the federal government in 2000, is to
ble—and valuable—option. In partnership with the Illinois Historic preserve and revitalize a mid-century housing stock once thought
Preservation Agency (IHPA), the CHA is demonstrating a new strate- incorrigible.
gy to restore some low-income public housing projects to their former Proponents of continued spending on site-based public housing
glory. According to Anne Haaker, Deputy State Historic Preservation have largely supported the Department of Housing and Urban Devel-

page 31
opment’s HOPE VI program, which funds National Register of Historic Places, which alone only offers developers a maximum nine
demolition of the worst projects and their NPS administers. The guide recommends percent credit per year (with a limit of ten
replacement with a combination of affordable that states and cities evaluate a property’s years) for acquisition, rehabilitation, or new
public units and market-rate dwellings—a impact on social or design history, and the construction of rental housing targeting low-
“mixed-income” approach—often in the New existence or absence of other local examples. er-income households. The Hilliard Homes
Urbanist design style. HOPE VI requires As an initial step in implementing the Plan project effectively combined the low-income
public-private partnerships to leverage funds for Transformation, IHPA undertook an and historic preservation credits.
from a variety of sources. But critics say assessment of every CHA-owned property The first phase of renovations to the Hill-
there’s actually been an overall reduction in and identified six developments with signifi- iard Homes started in 2002 and has been
the total number of public housing units cant social or architectural history. completed, with two more phases remaining.
since the program’s inception in 1993. The preservation approach to public Improvements to landscaping, parking, con-
Fiscal conservatives instead prefer the housing consists of retaining, rehabilitating, nections to the street grid, lighting, and recre-
Section 8 voucher initiative started in the and physically integrating a portion of the ation areas, are planned as part of a mixed-
1980s. Apartment-seekers enrolled in Section original residential building into newly built income community. Jonathan Fine, Presi-
8 receive federal subsidies to pay rent. Some mixed-use components, including residen- dent of Preservation Chicago, a non-profit
economists believe the market demand tial, commercial, and service units, as well as advocacy group for the preservation of the
expressed through voucher use triggers an recreational amenities. IHPA has focused city’s history, supports the Hilliard rehabilita-
increase in private sector affordable housing preservation requirements on exterior fea- tion because of the architectural quality and
production—which should reduce public tures, allowing the developers to reconfigure social significance of Goldberg’s design.
spending. But Section 8 also has critics, who the interior apartments—typically too small “There is not enough appreciation for the
claim the program destabilizes neighbor- for today’s standards—even at the loss of cer- designs of more recent architects, and they
hoods and lets some landlords charge unrea- tain historic elements. This approach is a are not viewed as historic,” he says. One of
sonably high rents in low-value areas. While compromise. According to Anne Haaker, Preservation Chicago’s major initiatives
CHA hasn’t abandoned Hope VI and Section IHPA recognizes “the need to balance preser- includes preservation of structures designed
8—the Plan for Transformation includes vation with the authority’s primary goal of by notable architects of the recent past,
strategies involving both—its new preserva- providing affordable housing.” including Goldberg.
tion-based option presents an intriguing While the majority of properties identi- CHA and IHPA have also met joint suc-
opportunity for both Chicago and the nation. fied by CHA and IHPA for preservation are cess in rehabilitating Trumbull Park Homes,
In redesigning America’s decaying public garden apartments, like the 454-unit Trum- a two-story complex on the city’s Far South
housing stock, planners and policy makers bull Park Homes, or mid-rise buildings dat- Side. Like Hilliard Homes, this project com-
have, in recent years, focused on a New ing from the late 1930s and early 1940s, Chi- bines low-income and historic preservation
Urbanist approach with traditional neighbor- cago’s focus on historic preservation has tax credits to upgrade the property. According
hood development (TND) concepts to provide opened more recently built affordable hous- to CHA’s Press Secretary, Karen Pride, a
a mix of residential and small-scale commer- ing structures to rehabilitation efforts. In the mixed public/private finance deal is pending
cial land uses, walkable neighborhoods, and early 2000s, developers approached IHPA for the project, which will retain key exterior
centrally located public space. This approach regarding the Hilliard Homes, constructed in features, such as its terraced entrances. Interi-
is more popular than modernist develop- 1966. Designed by noted architect Bertrand ors, however, will be upgraded to satisfy mod-
ments because it can minimize sometimes Goldberg—who was also responsible for ern building code requirements. D. Bradford
stark visual differences between public hous- Marina City, a landmark mid-century office, Hunt, a public housing historian and Assistant
ing and surrounding areas—while address- apartment, and parking complex located in Professor of Social Science at Roosevelt Uni-
ing the physical deterioration and stigmatiza- Chicago’s Loop district—the Hilliard Homes versity in Chicago, advocates preserving and
tion that may have struck both. Yet at the consist of two 22-story arc-shaped apartment rehabilitating low-rise row house public hous-
same time, constructing neighborhoods from buildings that encircle a public space, and ing projects. He believes that the Trumbull
scratch has required the demolition of histor- two cylindrical 16-story buildings for seniors. Park Homes rehabilitation works primarily
ic buildings—eliciting protests not only from Developers successfully lobbied to list the because it is small, not that dense, and has a
preservationists but also public housing advo- Hilliard Homes, located on South State Street strong tenant organization. In 1953, Trumbull
cates concerned with tenant displacement. near Chinatown, on the National Register of Park was the site of a notorious standoff
Housing advocates are more generally critical Historic Places. This qualified the project for between mostly white residents, who opposed
of TND as well, decrying any initiative that a Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit of twenty an African-American family moving in. By the
fails to expand the nation’s affordable hous- percent, which can be applied to substantial 1980s, Trumbull Park had become predomi-
ing stock. rehabilitations and adaptive reuse of private nantly African-American.
In 1999, the National Park Service (NPS) properties provided that “character-defining” “As a community, it works,” says Hunt.
inserted itself into the debate, producing a features are preserved. By comparison, the “Many high-rise buildings in the city do not
guide for listing public housing on the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit work. They have elevators, combined with

page 32
Counter-clockwise, from top left: Three archival photos of the Trumbull Park Homes.
Top right: archival photos of the Hilliard Homes. All images courtesy the Chicago Housing Authority.
high densities of children, which makes existing housing began to fall apart. It Bristol, Katharine G. “The Pruitt-Igoe
Myth.” Journal of Architectural
enforcing informal social controls a problem. became increasingly hazardous, spurring
Education 44.3 (1991): 163-171.
Trumbull Park has two-bedroom apartments, sociological studies on crime, poverty, and
and there are rarely more than two to three their relationship to the physical environ- Calthorpe, Peter. The Next American
kids in a family.” ment. Large-scale public housing creation Metropolis: Ecology, Community, and
officially ended in 1974 when President Nix- the American Dream. 3rd ed.
The Troubled Legacy on banned new construction. Since that time, Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural
Press, 1995.
of Urban Renewal the Department of Housing and Urban
By the late 1930s, federal legislators began Development (HUD) has focused on private Chicago Housing Authority
to create public housing for the very poor, not management of publicly subsidized housing,
just for people temporarily displaced by the and on serving elderly and disabled popula-
Depression. Despite this, a strict tenant selec- tions, in addition to HOPE VI and voucher Congress for New Urbanism,
Principles for Inner City Neighborhood
tion process remained in place, favoring com- programs. While the popular press has
plete families with an employed head of house- focused on the relatively infrequent demoli-
inner-city.pdf and
hold. Federal agencies created the system of tion and New Urbanist reconstruction of the reports/inner-city2.pdf
local housing authorities that exists today, and HOPE VI program, the Chicago Housing
increased standardization of materials, Authority has been quietly at work imple- Davis, Sam. The Architecture of
designs, and policies, leaving less room for menting some of HUD’s lesser known, yet Affordable Housing. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1995.
design creativity. critically important, recommended changes,
By the 1950s, new federal housing acts with potential ramifications for the vast De Wit, Wim. “The Rise of Public
were significantly changing the urban land- majority of its public housing stock. Housing in Chicago, 1930-1960.”
scape. First they permitted construction of While the possibilities for revitalizing Chicago Architecture and Design,
private housing on land that had previously older public housing have their limits, the 1923-1993: Reconfiguration of an
American Metropolis. Ed. John
been called slums, and later, they funded coordinated redevelopment of an overall com-
Zukowsky. Munich: Prestel-Verlag,
housing that was strictly built in conjunction munity would allow some historic features—
1993. 232-245.
with urban renewal programs. These policies buildings, landscapes, and site plans—to be
resulted in large-scale displacement of poor, saved. Renovating and retaining existing Fuerst, J. S., and D. Bradford Hunt.
often minority, populations while relaxing units is an economical alternative to building When Public Housing Was Paradise.
tenant standards, marking a shift away from new affordable housing that may also be less Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
the creation of model communities and disruptive for residents. Rather than continu-
toward providing housing for larger numbers ing the cycle of demolition and displacement Illinois State Historic
of poor families. that began as part of the urban renewal era, it Preservation Office
During this period, new public housing may be more appropriate and feasible to con-
construction mirrored the evolving Interna- serve public housing and keep communities
Newman, Oscar. Defensible Space:
tional Style, centering on unadorned con- intact while retaining affordable units. As
Crime Prevention through Urban
crete or steel and glass high-rises. The new CHA’s rehabilitation of Trumbull Park and
Design. New York: Macmillan, 1972.
designs radically changed the relationship the Hilliard Homes shows, careful evaluation
between residences and their surroundings. of the potential to reuse existing properties, Preservation Chicago
Even though garden apartments and row partnerships with local, state, and federal his-
houses had proved to be successful public toric preservation agencies, and combined
U. S. Department of Housing
housing types, architects and reformers want- use of available tax credits could prove an
and Urban Development
ed to explore other designs that would maxi- effective strategy toward improving the lives
mize usage of land. The resulting high-rise of public housing residents across the coun-
projects saved money—a crucial factor in the try—all while preserving an important part of Wright, Gwendolyn. Building the
face of a dwindling federal housing budget— our nation’s heritage. Dream: A Social History of Housing in
America. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1983.
but yielded less livable environments. Parents
living in upper-floor apartments could not
easily monitor children’s play areas at ground
level, and cost cutting led to reductions in
security and maintenance services, creating
darkened hallways and stairwells, dangerous
places ripe for gang activity.
By the 1960s, with little new public hous-
Opposite page: Couch, New Orleans, LA, 2006.
ing built and funds still low, the oft-neglected Photo ©Will Steacy

page 34
One Year Later
katrina: one year later by Emily Weiss

Crosses from Rubble

After Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Christian groups stepped in
where government agencies left off. Here, the tale of a tenacious widow,
a transplanted family, and three Matts on a mission

EMMETT WALLACE IS 49 YEARS OLD. than three weeks—the longest stop on their Biloxi, in the appropriately named town of
Until last fall, the farthest he had ever continuing journey. Pass Christian, Mississippi. Started by Ken-
moved from his hometown of Bridge City, During that time, Mr. Wallace grew tuckian Greg Porter, funded entirely by dona-
Louisiana, was five miles down the road to increasingly desperate, unsure how to pro- tions, and led by a team of Christian volun-
Marrero, another small, impoverished com- ceed. How would he be able to care for his teers who, according to Porter, “answer to
munity across the Mississippi River from family once the shelters shut down and the God first and foremost,” God’s Katrina Kitch-
New Orleans. Wallace was living in Marrero handouts stopped? Unable to support his en bills itself as, “amidst the devastation and
with his wife Gloria, 29, and their six chil- wife and children adequately before the debris, a place of peace, hope, caring, love
dren, all under the age of 11, when Hurri- storm with the wages from his $5.70-an-hour and comfort… the result of God’s calling peo-
cane Katrina struck last August. The family garbage truck “hop” job in New Orleans, he ple … to serve.” When Porter first arrived in
did not evacuate. was looking to make a fresh start, but he Pass Christian last September 14th, “High-
“Me and my daughters were at my house didn’t know how to go about it. All he could way 90—a four-lane highway—looked like it
at the time,” Mr. Wallace told me this spring. do, he reasoned, was wait, and pray. had been hit by mortars.” Undeterred, Porter
“First it was just raining hard. Then we all set up in the middle of the road, cooking and
decided we were gonna lay down and go to Parting the Red Tape serving over 120 hamburgers that day for
bed. But it started raining harder. Five min- Wallace wasn’t the only one. In the wake lunch. With its cadre of volunteer cooks, serv-
utes later the ceiling fell down in the living of Hurricane Katrina, victims throughout the ers, and skilled and unskilled workers, God’s
room.” Gulf Coast region were waiting and praying. Katrina Kitchen has been serving three meals
When the rain subsided on the next day, That strategy proved at least as effective as a day to local residents and workers every day
father and daughters returned to their house, relying on any kind of secular or public sup- since. Although G.K.K. is non-denomination-
but as Mr. Wallace said flatly, “We couldn’t port network. In the days, weeks, and months al—their motto is “Many Churches, One
even stay there. It was a total disaster.” The after the hurricane, as the media told indig- God”—their shared faith and hopes of evan-
next few days became a whirlwind tour of nant stories of communities let down by gelism bind them together. As Porter
temporary residences. Mr. Wallace’s wife and shortfalls at every level of government, it was explained to me in an email message in June,
four sons were at his mother-in-law’s house Christian groups who were quietly picking up “We have never been about feeding and dis-
at the time, so they stayed put. It began a the pieces. tribution only—we are here to show God’s
nearly four-month-long separation for the One of the most striking examples of this Love to the People of the Gulf Coast.”
family. religious outreach was Campus Crusade for Beyond such notable large-scale opera-
Mr. Wallace and his daughters were not Christ International, an evangelical mission- tions were the efforts of congregations across
the only ones to flee Marrero. Even the local ary group that has organized more than the nation, whose members “adopted” Gulf
operators of emergency pumping stations 15,000 volunteers to travel to the Gulf Coast Coast churches; collected and delivered dona-
had deserted—a controversial decision that region since last September. At first, its volun- tions of food, water, and clothing; and sent
ultimately destroyed the Wallaces’ neighbor- teers provided manpower at relief centers and carloads of volunteers to destroyed neighbor-
hood. The family tried their luck carving out feeding stations, according to the group’s web- hoods. Interviewing hurricane victims about
space in a trailer owned by one of Mr. Wal- site. Later, they expanded their efforts to their experiences, the stories of religious
lace’s sisters in nearby Napoleonville. But removing debris from victims’ homes, charity grew familiar: a Canadian group
after a week, the trailer filled up with other schools, churches, and parks. More recently, called Samaritan’s Purse sent ten men
relatives, and so the three Wallaces once the group brought more than 10,000 college equipped with chainsaws and Bobcats to a
again moved on. They ended up at a tempo- students to the region to spend their spring neighborhood on the Mississippi coast to
rary shelter at Nicholls State University in breaks cleaning yards and installing sheetrock. clear trees from yards. Three church girls
Thibodaux, a small bayou town 60 miles west Then there is God’s Katrina Kitchen, from Pennsylvania showed up one weekend
of New Orleans. They stayed for a little more located halfway between New Orleans and to drag muddy rugs out of an elderly wom-

page 36
This page: Emmett Wallace. Previous page: Wallace’s daughters, Moniquequa and Gloriadeidra.
Photos courtesy Dr. John Griffin

an’s house on the Mississippi gulf coast. “If unharmed by the storm, but her house, a ren- mayor’s salary by ten percent due to his “lack-
the religious groups had not come to help, I ovated gardener’s cottage that sat behind a luster” performance. (The mayor later vetoed
think we would’ve been back three or four huge historic house on the beach, was com- the motion—but he could not veto the senti-
months ago waiting on government assis- pletely decimated. According to Mrs. Smith’s ment behind the decision.)
tance,” Mississippi hurricane victim Ginnie daughter, Cecette Bassett, “The house literal- Mrs. Smith was in a particularly harrow-
Smith told me. Deanne Kimball, a parishio- ly floated off its foundation and moved inland ing situation. “I’m 80 years old, and I don’t
ner at Bible Fellowship Church, whose mem- about eight feet, destroying it and everything have a house,” she said, a week before Christ-
bers have housed numerous teams of volun- in it.” The “sweet little” wood-framed mas last year. Her insurance company
teer relief workers in its hurricane-ravaged home—including the full-length gallery claimed she should have had a flood insur-
home of coastal Mississippi, concurred. Also Smith had added across the front, with ance plan that the government had told her
in agreement was Jane Griffin, an Auburn French doors, rocking chairs, and ceiling she didn’t need. Her bank was clamoring for
University sophomore and Louisiana native fans—had become, in Bassett’s words, “noth- mortgage payments on a house that was no
who spent a weekend last fall doing Katrina ing but rubble, matchstick rubble—I mean longer livable, and her worldly belongings
relief work as part of a college church group: just trash.” Although it has gotten scant had been destroyed. Her FEMA relief check
“The government… took a long time deciding media coverage compared to larger cities in came in at a mere $2,000, so Mrs. Smith
what to do, whereas the church groups the area, Pass Christian has been in rough found herself in a position that she—the wid-
jumped on it and found ways to help [the shape since last August. Four months after ow of a Texas oil executive—never would
Katrina victims]: they cared, gave, fed, the hurricane struck, most of the 6,700 resi- have imagined. “I never thought I’d be home-
clothed, loved, and served.” dents were still without running water. The less when I’m 80,” she said last December.
only groceries were at a local distribution cen- She began eating three meals a day at God’s
The Damage Done ter run by missionaries, or at stores in Gulf- Katrina Kitchen.
in Pass Christian port, 30 miles away. Hundreds of residents
Nowhere do these statements ring truer were camping out in tents, and according to Three Matts on a Mission
than in the tiny fishing village and retirement the local Clarion-Ledger, as of late December, While Emmett Wallace and his daughters
community of Pass Christian. Pronounced “tons of debris remain[ed] to be cleared” and were idling at Nicholls State University, the
“Pass Kristy-Ann,” the town takes its name 80 percent of the city was still “in ruins.” answers to his prayers for deliverance—in the
from a local deepwater pass, which in turn Although 3,000 homes were destroyed or form of three men named Matt—were climb-
was named for Nicholas Christian L’Adnier, a severely damaged, only 160 building permits ing into a van in Ohio.
French property owner who moved to nearby had been issued for rebuilding, and the town It was Matt Pardi’s idea to adopt a family
Cat Island in 1745, just before the start of the was “still trying to provide basic services.” of evacuees. Pardi, 37, is the pastor of H20
French and Indian War. When Katrina hit, Contributing to the town’s slow recovery Ministries in Bowling Green, Ohio, a college
the town caught a 30-foot surge of water, process was its mayor, Billy McDonald, town an hour and a half south of Detroit.
pushing many historic houses out to sea and whose leadership style in the months follow- H20, a non-denominational church that is
knocking others right off their foundations. ing the hurricane was described by a local part of an umbrella organization, Great Com-
Ginnie Smith, an 80-year-old widow and alderman as “absent.” In mid-December, in mission Ministries, is composed almost
longtime Pass Christian resident was fact, the board of aldermen voted to slice the entirely of young people—95 percent of

page 38
members are college students—and its mis- Matts, expressing interest in going back to couldn’t.” The other evacuees that the Matts
sion, according to staff member Matt Olsze- Ohio with them. “But,” Emmett told me, “the had taken back with them—Michelle and
wski, 25, “is to effectively communicate and only way she was gonna leave was if her cous- her family, and Don—were unable to take
live out the transforming power of Jesus in Emmett was going with her.” root in this small Midwestern town, and so
Christ.” Nine people was a little more than the they all returned to New Orleans in January.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pastor Matts had bargained for. “I was nervous As of late June, however, Emmett was still
Pardi felt that God was telling him to go about the enormity of the project,” Pardi said. living with his family in Bowling Green,
down to New Orleans. So Pardi, Olszewski, “We initially imagined one family and working full time as a cook. He has stopped
and another staff member, Matt Hilderbran, guessed about six to eight thousand in receiving financial assistance from H20—
31, set off for Louisiana in Pardi’s van. The expense. Now with three families we were “If he was in a bind we could help him, but
three Matts were uncertain about what would looking at over $20,000. That was a little Emmett knows that we can’t support him,”
happen during their trip. The three men scary!” The three men drove a couple miles Hilderbran says. “We’re not one of those big
spent the twenty-hour drive on their cell down the road, bought a cheap minivan and mega-churches that have a lot of money to
phones, calling Louisiana shelters in search loaded everyone up for the trip back to Bowl- throw at things.” Over time, the men’s roles
of someone who needed their help while ing Green. have changed: from rescuer and victim, to
phoning contacts in Bowling Green to make Following the long drive, the church friendly neighbors with separate lives—or in
arrangements for spare apartments in case workers ushered Wallace and his family into the case of Pardi, who still talks to Emmett
they found a family to bring back. a furnished two-bedroom apartment, stocked several times a week, “now that there are no
What they saw on their drive encouraged the refrigerator, and set him up with what he strings attached,” it has become “more of a
them. “We drove down one street in Slidell [a described as a “nice job” in a warehouse, friendship.”
town on the northeast bank of Lake Pontchar- packing print labels for a food safety system
train], and each church it seemed had at least for $8 an hour—nearly 50 percent more than A Cross of Rubble
30 to 50 people that they were feeding and he’d earned in Louisiana. Soon after arriving, In Pass Christian, the government—
finding places for them to sleep,” said Hilder- he sent for his then-estranged wife Gloria— starved of sales tax revenue after losing 100
bran. After a couple of days of calling around they reconciled—and his six-year-old son, percent of downtown buildings—has strug-
and bouncing from shelter to shelter without Terry. The rest of the couple’s children gled to rebuild infrastructure. Running
success, one of the Matts received a call from remain with Gloria’s mother, who relocated water and a primitive sewer system were not
the Nicholls State gym: a single, 24-year-old to Arkansas. restored until early spring. Residents are
French Quarter prep cook, Don Williams, Every day for months, H20 church wary of the fast road to recovery through pri-
was interested in their proposition. Although members gave the Wallaces rides, taking vate redevelopment, as in neighboring
the H20 team was still hoping to take home a them grocery shopping and to football oceanfront town Biloxi, where thousands of
family, they followed this lead to the shelter games. They told Emmett they would con- companies are bidding to come in and build
in Cajun County—to a university that sells tinue to do so until he figured out how to large condominium high-rises and casinos
sweatshirts reading “Harvard on the Bayou.” pay the outstanding Louisiana speeding along its shore. Still, the severe need for
When the Matts arrived to pick up Williams, ticket that he claimed was delaying him housing has changed many locals’ attitudes
they spoke to a Red Cross worker who made from getting an Ohio driver’s license. “They toward developers.
an announcement on their behalf over the all are wonderful people, they truly are,” Town officials have accepted an offer
loudspeaker—“something like, ‘There are Mr. Wallace told me last December. from Wal-Mart to turn the once-historic
some individuals here from a church in Ohio, Though the Matts made it clear that the downtown, formerly a strip of antique shops,
and they are willing to help out a family that Wallaces’ coming to church wasn’t a condi- boutiques, and health food stores shaded by a
may want to relocate to Ohio. If you are inter- tion of their staying, the Wallaces came any- canopy of 300-year-old live oaks, into an area
ested in this, come up to the info table,’” Matt way. “We go to church with the organization to be known as Pass Christian Wal-Mart Vil-
Pardi recalled. The Red Cross worker that came and got us,” Wallace explained. lage. According to the Mississippi Renewal
explained the arrangement: six months of an And compared to the chaos in Marrero— Forum, a consortium started last October by
all-expense-paid new life in Bowling Green, where, eleven weeks after the storm, many Governor Haley Barbour, the retail giant has
Ohio, with no pressure to stay permanently residents were still homeless and FEMA was partnered with a New Orleans-based real-
or attend church—“and you will need to be half-heartedly handing out trailers—Emmett estate development company called Historic
willing to work.” Wallace was finding that he actually liked life Restoration, Inc. “to develop the mixed-use
Emmett Wallace and his daughters heard in Ohio. In fact, in some ways, things were housing portion of the project.”
the announcement. So did Wallace’s distant better than they had been before Katrina. Meanwhile, the missionaries at God’s
cousin, Michelle Burnside, 44, who was stay- “My family feels great, and so do I,” he Katrina Kitchen can at least offer spiritual
ing at the shelter along with her daughter Tif- told me last December. “It’s a blessing to me,
fany, 26, and Tiffany’s three young boys. It because I’m able to take care of my family the continued on page 42
was Burnside, a widow, who approached the way I wanted to. Really, in Louisiana, I

page 39
katrina: one year later by Jess McCuan

Fifteen Minutes With…

Brent Warr, Mayor of
Gulfport, Mississippi
The mayor of Gulfport, Mississippi talks about his city’s lowest moments after Katrina,
the importance of casinos, and the tremendous help he’s gotten from outsiders as his city
digs out from one of the most devastating storms in history

WHEN HURRICANE KATRINA STRUCK aged to attract new investors who are plan- for generators. It was just necessary to keep
the Gulf Coast last August, most TV camer- ning commercial, residential, and mixed-use things going.
as were trained on New Orleans. That focus developments that will revive—and even
only intensified after the city’s levee system improve—this devastated coastal area. With the city in chaos, what did you
failed and left whole neighborhoods under- “I don’t deserve a nickel of credit,” Warr decide to fix first?
water. But other Gulf Coast cities were told a crowd recently as he accepted an award We made sure we had pumps going for wells,
arguably just as devastated. A 27-foot storm for his leadership during the disaster. “I was and we made sure the hospitals had water
surge wiped out most of the buildings along just the linchpin. The city employees were and were able to keep running. We have 157
the Mississippi coastline. More than 200 the ones carrying the weight.” But many see lift stations for sewage in the city, and 54 of
Mississippians were killed, including 30 Warr, whose booming voice and southern them were submerged. They melted down to
people trapped in one beachfront apartment drawl give him the air of a preacher, as an nothing. They still had electricity running to
complex in Biloxi. In nearby Gulfport, the unsung hero of the Gulf Coast’s rebuilding them when they were underwater. We had to
state’s second-largest city, 4,000 homes efforts. Warr spoke with The Next American try to get generators to bypass pumps to run
were destroyed, sewage overflowed into city City about the lowest moments, the impor- those lift stations, so that we could get water.
streets, and the storm knocked out all but tance of casinos, and the tremendous help Another concern: if you put water in but
six traffic lights. from outsiders as his city digs out from one you’re not pumping the sewage out, you get
Brent Warr, the Republican mayor of of the most devastating storms in history. dysentery, especially in August and Septem-
Gulfport, who had never before held an elect- ber. So that was something we watched very
ed office and had only been mayor for seven TNAC: After Katrina hit Gulfport, you closely. At one point we were told by the
weeks prior to the storm, was in for the ride resorted to some fairly unconventional Department of Health, the local authority, to
of his life. His own home was damaged, as methods for helping people out. I read quit pumping water. But we refused to do it.
was his business, Warr’s Men’s Clothing in one story that said you asked your
downtown Gulfport. In the days after Katrina police chief to hotwire a truck, and you Was there a time in the days after the
hit, his main goal was to get food and water ordered someone else to steal a stove. storm when you felt panicked?
to some 72,000 residents. Another goal was Was anyone in Gulfport alarmed? There was one particular day—within the
to help his overwhelmed police force main- The important part about that stove is, we first week. We weren’t able to get control of
tain order as looters ransacked stores and gave it back. And we gave it back cleaner the looting, or of the traffic. Our police forces
drug addicts, looking to stave off withdrawals, than we got it, that’s for sure. These were were totally overwhelmed, and they were
started raiding hospitals and medical centers. things that we had to do. We had to feed doing everything they could to maintain
Yet within ten days after the storm, most ourselves and other people. What we took order. We just couldn’t gain any ground.
Gulfport residences and buildings had power was a stove that you’d use for a big barbe- Things were slipping away every day. Mayor
restored. The Senate commended the city for cue. I knew where it was because I’d driven Joe Riley, the mayor of Charleston [South
its efficient removal of 4 million cubic yards by it so many times. Really, everybody was Carolina], sent in 54 police officers. He didn’t
of debris, and now, though Gulfport has lost doing the best they could. We had to siphon call; he didn’t ask if we needed them. He just
approximately 3,000 jobs, it has also man- fuel out of wrecked vehicles to run pumps knew to send them. I was driving through the

page 40
city that day, and I saw a uniform I didn’t rec- weeks before the storm. It was just sitting have been able to go work at other casinos.
ognize. A young lady who was a Charleston there: a bunch of bunk houses, warehouses, There are three open in Biloxi now. A lot of
police officer was standing in one of the busi- and a kitchen. We agreed to give the NC Bap- people who weren’t from the coast and
est intersections in Gulfport directing traffic. tist men the use of this for two years. They worked at casinos left and moved back to
That really meant everything in the world to came in and built us another big warehouse where they were from.
me. He’s an incredible leader. and brought in trailers for showers and plac-
es to sleep. They’ve got 400 volunteers on the Do you think it will be a big part of the
How long were city employees in crisis ground all the time down there rebuilding plan for moving forward, attracting new
mode? these homes. They come to people and say, casinos and getting the current ones up
Lord have mercy, we worked out of tents set “Look, we’re going to put you a new roof on. and running?
up on the front steps of city hall. People were It’s not going to be a 20-year shingle, it’s It’s part of the plan. We’re not going to have
sitting in the corners of these tents on the going to be a 30-year architectural shingle. as many casinos as Biloxi. That’s not our plan
steps of a 100-year-old building. That proba- What color would you like?” They go around or our desire. We’d like to have enough to
bly went on for two and a half months. Our saying things like, “That tub is dirty—let’s have them as a good added amenity, but we
public works director, Kris Reimann, is an pull it out and put you a new one in for free.” won’t have a dozen.
incredible talent. He himself was in there
with his whole department, fixing sewer lift What was their connection to the Gulf- What will it take to draw people back in
stations and sleeping four to five hours a day. port area? to the Gulfport region?
He and the policemen and firemen were out They’re just wonderful Christian people. We have only lost about 2.5 to 3 percent of
doing search and rescue constantly. We need- They came in and said, “We’d like to help.” our population. It’s already happening. Peo-
ed water first, then food, then we started wor- Before they came in with construction crews, ple are coming in, wanting to work, wanting
rying about infrastructure. All this time I had they had set up the largest feeding facility on to participate in all the new economic activity.
dozens of contractors coming in wanting to the Coast. They fed—I can’t remember how The government opportunity zones and tax-
talk about debris removal. We had millions of many meals—well over 50,000 meals in a incentives are huge. We have a lot of labor in
cubic yards of debris. That was quite a com- very short amount of time. They came in on the city, a lot of activity, that wasn’t there
plicated issue. I didn’t know anything about buses, slept on cots, and they’re still down before. A lot of sophisticated investors are
it. That was something we figured out as we there, feeding people and praying with them, coming in now, looking for prime opportuni-
went along. taking them meals and asking nothing. ties and prime pieces of real estate. They can
really build a quality product now, and they’re
Who do you think were the most impor- Was it a big blow to the city and the very attracted to Gulfport.
tant people in Gulfport’s recovery and local economy when the two casinos
rebuilding effort? shut down? Did you feel that, in the aftermath of
Trent Lott, Thad Cochran, and Haley Barbo- It was. But not as significant a blow as some Katrina, the media and the public over-
ur—I don’t know which I’d put on top of the people think. The gaming revenue was about looked cities like Gulfport to focus main-
list. Those were the go-to people that we 5.8 to 6 percent of the general income for the ly on New Orleans?
called with problems. If we needed a genera- city. More important than that, there were a lot They did, and I think everybody would agree
tor, they would get us a generator. Also, Con- of local jobs that were tied to the gaming indus- that that happened. But I think there are
gressmen Chip Pickering and Gene Taylor. try. They’ll be able to find other jobs, we hope, practical reasons for that. We weren’t as
On the local level, the guy that I have so and hang on until we have the new casinos vocal about what had happened to us as
much respect for is our coroner, Gary Har- open. Harrah’s, a big player, decided to sell some other cities were. One of the reasons
grove. Can you imagine what his job was their assets in Gulfport, rather than rebuild. for that is that we had seen storms before.
like? He was having to find places to store They had one in Biloxi, and they decided to No one in New Orleans had ever lived
bodies. He did it with a lot of respect and dig- take their interest money and move to Biloxi. through a levee break and the city flooding.
nity, and he gave a lot of respect to the vic- I’ve been through all the hurricanes since
tims of the storm. That could have been very Are both Gulfport casinos back up Camille in ‘69. I knew what I was going to
mishandled. He was kind of an unsung hero. and running? be looking at when I walked out of the
There was also a North Carolina Baptist Nope. The other one bought the Harrah’s house after the storm. I had no idea it was
Men’s group that was unbelievable. They property and they’re working on it. Late sum- going to be as bad as it was, but I knew what
made a commitment to come into Gulfport mer they’ll be open, and we have other casino blown-down trees and cars on houses and
and rebuild over 600 homes for free, provid- properties coming in. damaged houses looked like. Folks that lived
ing labor and materials at no cost. It’s amaz- over in New Orleans—I don’t know if there’s
ing the way this worked. I think God just did How many jobs were lost? anybody alive that’s lived in the city when the
this for us. We got an old armory given back Probably 3,000. Some of them were able to levees broke.
to the city by the National Guard about four draw unemployment for some time, and they

page 41
Did you feel that residents of Gulfport support to a commu- tinues to be spent on housing volunteer
dealt with the crisis well? cont’d from page 39 nity whose churches teams from all over the U.S.
Oh God, they were just as devastated as were universally “God has met the needs in amazing
people in New Orleans. There’s no ques- destroyed. At some point after the storm, ways,” Kimball told me. While most volun-
tion about that. Everyone was trauma- according to Cecette Bassett, Ginnie Smith’s teers stay only a short while, “the few long-
tized and heartsick. They were scared, daughter, the missionaries built a huge cross term volunteers I’ve spoken with have no
upset, sad. But they moved on with an on the beach out of trash and started holding immediate plans for pulling out—even with
incredible amount of dignity. They didn’t free services every night at 8 p.m. Large busi- another hurricane season looming.”
complain; they just got to work. nesses have kicked in too: Robin Roberts of
Good Morning America, who happens to be a
Why has Gulfport rebuilt so much Pass Christian native, organized fund-raising
more quickly than other cities? efforts involving Salvation Army, Home
Campus Crusade for Christ
We’ve begun the rebuilding process. Depot, Staples, and AmeriCorps’ parent com-
We’re not rebuilt yet. But everyone who’s pany, the Corporation for National and Com-
there, they love it. It’s their home. Many of munity Service.
them have other options for places to go. You might think that someone like Mrs. God’s Katrina Kitchen
They’re not going to do it. They’re not Smith, an 80-year-old widow without a home,

willing to let the storm win. Katrina took a would have wanted to flee all this chaos. But
Great Commission Ministries
whole lot from us on that day. But it’s she wouldn’t even consider the thought. International, Inc. (the umbrella
kind of like—she won the battle, but we’re In the end, her house was unfixable; it organization for H20 Church)
going to win the war. had to be completely torn down and rebuilt.
Despite her lack of flood insurance, the gov-
Historic Restoration Inc. of New
ernment is helping, providing Mrs. Smith
with a federal grant tailored for homeowners
Knabb, Richard D., Jamie R. Rhome,
outside the “flood zone” who nonetheless lost
and Daniel P. Brown. “Tropical
Cyclone Report: Hurricane Katrina, property, and a small-business loan. So now Mississippi Renewal Forum:
23-30 August 2005.” Miami, Florida: Mrs. Smith has hired a contractor to rebuild Governor’s Commission on Recovery,
National Hurricane Center, 2005. her house on the same footprint as it was Rebuilding, and Renewal (includes information about the Pass Christian
before. In the meantime, she lives in the gar-
AL122005_Katrina.pdf Wal-Mart Village)
dener’s cottage of a friend’s house and is try-
ing slowly to rebuild her life. I called Mrs.
Smith in late April to see how she was doing. Pass Christian Historical Society
“I just got a telephone yesterday!” she report-
ed triumphantly.
Bassett is impressed by the vivacity of her
Samaritan’s Purse International Relief
mother and her mostly elderly, widowed
friends: “It looks like Afghanistan bombed
their town, and they’re still partying up a Schmucker, Jane. “3 B.G. Men Give
storm,” she told me. “It’s amazing, all these Shelter from Storm: Church Leaders
Travel to Louisana, Drive 10 Victims
women who refuse to leave—they’re just gon-
back to Ohio.” Toledo Blade
na live there, stay in their community. They 3 Oct. 2005.
all feel like they’re Scarlett O’Hara: ‘The
South will rise again!’”
As of late April, God’s Katrina Kitchen
was still set up on the beach in Pass Chris-
tian, distributing Clorox and gloves, three
meals a day, and other needed supplies.
Scott Kimball, a parishioner at Bible Fel-
lowship Church in Pass Christian, continues
to be impressed by the revolving crew of vol-
unteers. His small congregation’s initial goal,
after Katrina hit, was yard cleanup for mem-
bers and their neighbors. But eight months
after the hurricane, most of their energy con-

page 42
BOOK REVIEW by Carly Berwick

Planet of Slums
By Mike Davis. New York: Verso. Cloth, 228 pages. $24

An urban scholar looks into the earth’s future and sees a heap of filth

eminently readable, drawing him a much problems in crowded areas—creates particu-

wider audience than most neo-Marxists could larly onerous burdens for women, who wait
ever hope to enjoy. for the cover of early morning or dark to
But Planet of Slums lacks Davis’s charac- excrete in public.
teristic flamboyance—most of it reads like a But why exactly have these states aban-
dry policy report. In fact, he does draw much doned their citizens to lives of squalor? Davis
of his data and observations from such explains: “As Third World governments abdi-
reports, most notably the United Nations cated the battle against the slum in the 1970s,
Human Settlements Programme’s 2003 the Bretton Woods institutions—with the
report, “The Challenge of the Slums.” Statis- IMF as ‘bad cop’ and the World Bank as
tic after statistic pummels the reader with a ‘good cop’—assumed increasingly command-
manic global tour of widespread suffering: ing roles in setting the parameters of urban
the slums, despite the noble efforts of their housing policy.” Slums are born out of
residents to make them homey, are misera- “structural adjustment, currency devaluation,
ORDINARY CITIZENS OF BEIJING SHOULD ble; they are growing; and their growth is in and state retrenchment.”
worry: the 2008 Olympics are coming. To large part due to neo-liberal policies of First- Unfortunately, no further discussion of
beautify the city before the eyes of the world, World lending institutions. In one paragraph Bretton Woods or structural adjustment, a
the slums need to go. At least 350,000 people we move rapidly from Beijing to Bangalore to term frequently bandied about by critics of
are being moved for one stadium. Maverick Shenzhen. It’s dizzying, and difficult to dis- neo-liberalism, follows his explanation.
historian Mike Davis, in his most recent cern any narrative other than that most lives Three-quarters of the way through a book
book, Planet of the Slums, calls the relocation anywhere other than North America and devoted to critiquing structural adjustment
projects an unnecessary forced march so the Europe are currently looking particularly nas- programs, Davis finally defines them as “the
rich do not have to see the massive numbers ty and brutish. protocols by which indebted countries sur-
of desperate poor. Davis’s most impassioned and gripping render their economic independence to the
Within a year or two, a majority of the examples come in the chapter titled, “Slum IMF and World Bank.” What are those proto-
world’s population will live in cities. But Ecology,” when he revisits a theme prevalent cols? A detailed example would do wonders.
these are not Jane Jacobs’s cozy villages with- in earlier books: how human expansion and It is also unclear if solutions lurk within
in the metropolis: they are sprawling masses environmental degradation propel disastrous Davis’s assembled facts and exposés. Peruvi-
of misery, where a huge proportion of the feedback loops. Squatters often settle in dirty an economist Hernando de Soto has advocat-
populace—currently 1 billion of the world’s or polluted areas where lack of state-provided ed making property owners out of slum
3.2 billion city-dwellers—live in slums. There, sanitation creates even more dirt and pollu- dwellers, but Davis tells us it would do no
the poor colonize available land with hand- tion. In Rio de Janeiro and Caracas, slums sit good: newly empowered property owners
made shacks and shanties, plumbing is on unstable hillsides, whose recurring disso- simply evolve from slum dwellers to slum-
scarce, and governments and landlords can lution has killed thousands. lords. ‘Titling,’ Davis further admonishes, is
sweep aside established settlements at their Most disturbing are the examples of mil- ultimately a nefarious scheme to undermine
convenience. In the meantime, anyone who lions of people literally “living in shit.” Kin- slum solidarity. So is the very concept of pri-
can afford it retreats to private communities shasa, in the Republic of Congo, has a popu- vate property flawed? Can self-organized
with names like “Beverly Hills” (near Cairo) lation of 10 million and “no waterborne sew- slums somehow demonstrate the virtues of
and “Long Beach” (north of Beijing). age system,” Davis says, leaving us to imag- settlement without property rights? Is Davis’s
In past writing, Davis’s unorthodox prose ine gutters by the road filled with excrement. critique of ‘titling’ actually a plea for state-
and unexpected comparisons—between Worse are the examples of Indian slums with sponsored housing—unlikely as that seems
action movies and patterns of urban settle- approximately nineteen latrines for 100,000 given his skepticism of corrupt governments
ment, for instance, in Ecology of Fear—have people. People relieve themselves outdoors, and substandard public housing projects?
made even the gloomiest prognostications which—in addition to the obvious health We simply don’t know what he thinks

page 43
because he never tells us, moving quickly BOOK REVIEW by Mariana Mogilevich
on to his next example of slum deprivation.
Davis once stood out among socialist crit-
ics because he was able to entertain lay read- Rebuilding Urban Places After Disaster:
ers. But Planet of Slums reads as if addressed Lessons from Hurricane Katrina
to a seminar of grad students or New Left Edited by Eugenie L. Birch and Susan
Review subscribers. If Davis means for it to be
a wake-up call, he is ringing the morning bell
M. Wachter. Philadelphia: University of
in the commune of the already converted. Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Still, the book is not entirely without its
pleasures. Davis returns to form in the final A new collection of essays offers lessons for rebuilding
chapter, offering the unexpected, off-the- after Katrina, but may be a bit too late
wall, and trenchant cultural and political
analysis that first made him famous in the
classic City of Quartz. He suggests that the
U.S. military may be the First-World insti- THE PUBLISHED PROCEEDINGS OF A create a realistic model for the city’s short-
tution best prepared to pragmatically conference held at the University of Pennsyl- term recovery.
answer the challenge of the slums, since it vania in early 2006, Rebuilding Urban Plac- From their multiple perspectives, these
is from the slums that the next generation es, aims to “draw lessons for the present and valuable essays examine questions of who
of terrorists and so-called freedom fighters the future from our experience to date with must take responsibility for rebuilding and
will emerge. the aftermath of Katrina.” Contributors reach how. They offer many promising suggestions
The slums are growing at a ferocious from as far back as the Lisbon Fire of 1755 to and means for preventing, predicting, and
pace; North Americans, Europeans, and the more recent disasters in the United States— reacting faster to such devastation in the
wealthy of Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Rio the Great Chicago Fire, the San Francisco future. Considering the missteps already
ignore them at their peril. Despite its lapses earthquakes of 1906 and 1989, and Hurri- made, and the growing challenges to replen-
and ellipses, Planet of the Slums is an impor- cane Andrew’s destruction of the Florida ishing housing and devising resettlement
tant goad to other writers and thinkers to Coast in 1992—for strategies and lessons in strategies, however, the lessons come too late
pick up the cause. rebuilding the places where people live, work, for New Orleans. At this point, the city might
and find meaning, in the wake of terrible benefit more from a companion volume
destruction. Sadly, the lessons learned, tech- addressing how to rebuild after disastrous
niques developed, and suggestions proffered rebuilding. In light of the overwhelming nat-
may be more relevant for the country’s next ural, social, and economic challenges posed
major disaster than to the struggling city of by the problem at hand, historic preservation-
New Orleans, about which the contributors ist Randall Mason’s argument for the central-
are realistically guarded, if not pessimistic. ity of cultural preservation in rebuilding pro-
In the first essay of this interdisciplinary vides a much-needed perspective. Emphasiz-
volume, a bioengineer and environmental ing the import of cultural values over eco-
scientist set the tone, arguing that “New nomic ones, and highlighting the power of
Orleans can not be protected from a repeti- New Orleans as place, he reminds us why we
tion of Hurricane Katrina.” The reasons are must continue to search for solutions that
simple: either a major flood on the Missis- respect the past but are viable for the imme-
sippi system that originates higher in the diate future: We cannot simply move away to
watershed or the inevitable diversion of the drier ground or on to the next problem.
Mississippi into a new distributary, the
Atchafalaya River, will bring new destruc-
tion to New Orleans in the not-so-distant
future. Establishing New Orleans’s unfit-
ness for human habitation in the long term
starts the collection on a gloomy note. But
in the contributions that follow, thinkers
from the worlds of design, public policy,
education and economics—as well as a folk-
lorist and sociologist—offer what they can
to help others learn from the disaster and

page 44
BOOK REVIEW by Anika K. Singh

The Place You Love is Gone: Progress Hits Home

By Melissa Holbrook Pierson. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hardcover, 208 pages. $25.95

An unapologetic sentimentalist takes on sprawl—and loses

and the Akron City Club. To the extent that ley. This Eden, too, has fallen prey to outside
there is a story here, it goes something like forces, specifically New York City’s need for
this: Melissa Holbrook Pierson had a happy, water and homes. Residential development
upper-middle-class, white childhood. The replaces woods and farms. Eminent domain
place where it happened no longer exists as it claims private property for reservoirs to
did in the 1950s and ‘60s. “They change quench the thirst of downstate inhabitants.
everything (thus a retroactive version of Not that Pierson’s sympathies are for her
you),” she tells us, “and they didn’t even ask neighbors’ private property rights; rather, she
if they could. The bastards.” The reader is wishes she could undo their choice to sell a
expected to empathize. particular property to a developer so that she
The story might be somewhat more com- could continue to go on hikes with two
pelling, despite the melodrama, if we knew mountain views.
who “they” were. But Pierson’s villains seem Pierson’s understanding of urban devel-
not only abstractions but, worse, drawn from opment is painfully simplistic. She hates the
WHY DID MELISSA HOLBROOK PIERSON the standard “Who’s Who in Suburban cars, highways, and malls for their failure to
write The Place You Love is Gone? In a series Sprawl”: cars, interstate highways, and malls; appreciate Akron’s urban center. She is
of meditations on displacement by new Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath & Beyond; Red Lob- equally disdainful of the gentrification that
forms of development, Pierson preaches to ster and Friendly’s. Pierson attempts to make evidences a renewed interest in Hoboken’s
those already baptized as haters of sprawl, the reader complicit in her attack on “prog- urban charm. In the end, Pierson offers her
strip malls, and big-box-lined highways. She ress.” “We are a generation weighed down by a reader nothing but the sense that America
bemoans suburban sprawl and urban gentri- sadness we do not know we feel,” she tells her would make better use of its land if it would
fication for wreaking havoc in the places she readers. But just who is a member of Pierson’s simply let her make all land use decisions.
once called home, but her book sheds no new “We,” mourning for her lost childhood? Pierson’s book is an apt example of what
light on this much observed phenomenon. In her twenties, Pierson finds herself in critics of the anti-sprawl and New Urbanist
At war with any force that has altered places Hoboken, New Jersey. Pierson’s 1980s Hobo- movements despise. She is patronizing and
she loves, Pierson repeatedly casts herself as an ken is both bohemian and dingy. Her contradictory; she yearns to live in open spac-
unapologetic sentimentalist, “nostalgic,” and a description of a one-bedroom apartment es but despises others who want the same for
“hypocrite,” to shield herself from criticism that would sicken an exterminator. Beyond the getting in her way. Whether you want to live
her book is just that: an indulgent exercise in rodent-infested, unheated apartments shared in an urban downtown or a rural town center,
nostalgia and a hypocritical critique of the with duplicitous roommates and failed Pierson can and will critique your choices in
American lifestyle, which she herself lives. It’s a romances, Pierson finds yet more fault with long, melodramatic sentences, brimming with
neat trick—embracing one’s flaws in the hopes how New Jersey gradually changes: how an nostalgia but devoid of the sort of intelligent
that doing so will neuter others’ criticisms. It upscale gourmet market supplants a grocery sensitivity that might make her work useful.
might even have worked, were it not that Pier- founded by Italian immigrants at the turn of
son is, in addition to begin overly sentimental, the century, for instance. Despite her disdain
also dull, repetitive, and melodramatic. for the city’s humble beginnings, Pierson
Pierson begins by telling her childhood mourns Hoboken’s renaissance, a gentrifica-
story not as a chronological narrative, but tion and displacement presumably jumpstart-
through the lens of place. She grows up in “a ed by an influx of white, “artsy” college grad-
small snow globe of suburban happiness.” uates, much like Pierson herself.
Specifically, the places she means to evoke Pierson finishes by describing her cur-
are downtown Akron in Ohio, Daddy’s office, rent home in New York’s Hudson River Val-

page 45
Carly Berwick writes about art and culture for of the past three years. After working as an Anika Singh is a staff attorney at the Community, ARTnews, New York, and Travel architectural consultant specializing in historic Development Project of the Urban Justice Center
and Leisure, among other places. She recently preservation, he joined the staff of Planetizen full- where she practices community development and
traveled to Hong Kong, which made her New time in late 2005. consumer protection law. She is a senior editor and
York-area home look green and spacious by the submissions editor at The Next American City.
comparison. Joseph Heathcott is an architectural historian,
writer, and educator living in St. Louis. He is a Will Steacy is a photographer who has been
Rebekah Brem is a cartoonist and illustrator who graduate faculty member in the Department of documenting the city of New Orleans in a state
is currently making a painted graphic novel, American Studies at Saint Louis University, of transition in his project titled, “When Night
Misericordia. She lives in Brooklyn. where he teaches history and theory of city Becomes Day.” His work will be exhibited in planning and urban design. New York, Hamburg, Toronto, Seattle, Houston,
Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Sun Valley, and Las
Alan Brunettin is a multi-media artist now living Stephen Janis is a reporter for the Baltimore Vegas this year. He lives and works in New York.
and working in Chicago, having recently Examiner and an adjunct professor for Johns <>
relocated from St. Louis. While he is an Hopkins School of Communications and
experienced photographer and works in new Contemporary Society. His first novel, Orange, Robert Garland Thomson is trained as an
media/motion arts, he is primarily a painter of will be published this summer. archaeologist and historic preservationist. His
the urban landscape as well as a portraitist. work in education and training programs in
Video projects he’s produced include an elegy to Frank Klein is a freelance photojournalist living cultural heritage management has focused on
the lost buildings of downtown St. Louis and an in the Baltimore-Washington area. Klein is several sites in the U.S., South and Southeast
animated art piece that created a spinning the recent recipient of a 2005 award for a photo Asia, and the Balkans. Based in San Francisco,
Gateway Arch. <> feature from the Society of Professional he currently works at the Getty Conservation
Journalists. Institute in Los Angeles.
Jeffrey Chusid is an architect specializing in
historic preservation and a professor at Cornell’s Sharon Maclean works as a community planner Anthony Weiss is a freelance writer and works
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. His in New Jersey and is originally from Pittsburgh. as an urban planner for Alex Garvin &
recent research has focused on three areas: the Her work and research focus on using historic Associates. He lives in Brooklyn, works in
fate of historic resources in areas of cultural preservation to revitalize communities. Manhattan, writes where he can, and is kind to
exchange and conflict; the conservation of old ladies and small children.
Modernist Architecture of Southern California; Shaun O’Boyle received an Education BFA in
and cultural landscapes. Architecture from Parsons School of Design. Emily Weiss, an education policy analyst and
O’Boyle is interested in architecture, entropy, former Teach For America corps member, lives
Doug Giuliano received his Masters of City and the dissolution of industrial systems; of in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has family in
Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and particular interest are recent ruins of industrial the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana.
works on planning and policy issues for downtown and institutional architecture and infrastructure.
Brooklyn. A Philadelphia expatriate, Doug now <>
lives in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of
Brooklyn and still roots for the 76ers. Jeff Pooley is an Instructor of Media History and
Communication at Muhlenberg College. He has
David Gest, originally from Washington, D.C., worked as a researcher-writer and editor for the
graduated from Yale in 2003 with a degree in Let’s Go travel guide series, and as a staff writer
architecture and urban studies. He then moved to and columnist for Brill’s Content, the media
Los Angeles, and has been wearing shorts for most affairs monthly.

page 46
for a few months, take temporary gins is 50 miles north of the Mississippi coast and sustained little
continued from page 48 shelter in an office building in the hurricane damage, but was nonetheless part of the long-term recov-
vicinity of a recent natural disas- ery plan: any responsible long-term plan would recognize the town as
ter. Most of their communication happens through paperwork. When the receiving area for an evacuation; it would also be a logical place to
they communicate verbally, it is through acronyms. A complex code encourage well planned development.
determines if you belong: At the McDonald’s, I met Steve, a former full-time FEMA
“Are you URS?” employee and now consultant. He was our team leader and seeming-
“Umm, I don’t know.” ly the most capable person in all of Mississippi. He managed to be
“ERPMC?” professional and thoughtful while maintaining a sense of humor
“I don’t know what that means.” amongst all the frustrated and disgruntled FEMA staff. Steve scrib-
“What’s your code?” bled some words on a Steno sheet that would kick off the intense ten
“I thought you were gonna tell me that one.” weeks of recovery work I had long anticipated. On the sheet was a list
“Do you have an I-pass?” of who’s who in Stone County: mayors, aldermen, sheriffs, wardens,
“I don’t think so.” business owners. We would interview them to suss out their visions
“You shouldn’t be on this floor.” for their county’s future. We would consult experts in the field. We
The small staff of permanent FEMA workers reproduced and would create and release this plan in three months so that Stone
increased exponentially. New staffers consisted of people like me, who County would have a beacon in the fog of recovery.
had no preparation and only knew where to show up. We received In the next ten weeks, people came and went, rumors circulated,
computers and phones and badges and cameras and parking passes. plans were drafted, forms were filled out, permission was given and
The outfitting is only one small task for FEMA, whose broad taken away, relationships were built. And nothing happened.
instructions boil down to: wait for a disaster, staff it, outfit the staff, By January all that was left of our team was Gary, a retired sheriff
send them to the field. Just this simple task is like waking a hungry, from South Dakota, and myself—an unlikely pair. Gary gained the
hibernating bear and making it catch a deer for dinner. Not impossi- trust of skeptical townsfolk instantly. We spent a month of twelve-
ble, but awkward. hour days alternating between meetings in the town and our “office”
For the next three months, I was careful not to expect anything. I in the back of an old supermarket in Wiggins, next to the Piggly Wig-
spent every day as if it might be my last in that town. The branch I gly. This was 50 miles from FEMA’s Mississippi operations base, but
found myself working for was called ESF-14, Long Term Community it may as well have been 1,000. Communication with the rest of our
Recovery. After a storm event, various branches of FEMA respond, branch was nonexistent.
and many federal agencies assist in different aspects of recovery. We looked for work every way that we could. Everyone in town
ESF-14 helps communities make sense of all the agencies. In theory, was sick of seeing us. FEMA culture severely discouraged us from
we were fashioning a plan to coordinate applying for and disbursing talking with any FEMA workers outside the branch, and nobody with-
funds. Of course, each member of the twenty-person ESF-14 team in the branch had a clue what was going on. I waited every week for
had their own idea about what this plan actually was. Saturday, when I would drive the two hours to Biloxi to meet with our
After a while in Jackson, a few team members were sent south to branch. There was always the hope that this would be the day that
Waveland, Mississippi, to attend a town meeting. Waveland had been they would take the leash off and let us go to work.
decimated, and Robert Orr, a designer of the New Urbanist Shangri- We did this for about a month. We lobbied. We said that our
La, Seaside, Florida, would be unveiling his plans for the new town. county, being the farthest from the coast and hit with the least dam-
We arrived at night in a gigantic, gold Infiniti SUV donated by a local age, could complete a plan the fastest. It would act as a model that
Nissan plant. In the town of 2,500, you would be hard-pressed to find other counties could follow. But everyone was told by FEMA higher-
ten habitable homes. Airplanes flew overhead spraying for mosqui- ups to wait and not step on anyone’s toes. We were told that the state
toes. Two hundred people showed up to attend a meeting in a modu- would provide direction. Finally, they did. They said that they would
lar home that could hold fifty. prepare the long-term recovery plan, and we should all go home. We
The next day we attended a planning symposium at the Imperial had a week to get out of town, maybe less. That was it.
Palace Casino in Biloxi, one of the few usable spaces in the area. One I still have no idea what happened. By that point, I was more than
hundred FEMA employees gathered to hear Andrés Duany introduce ready to go home.
yet another New Urbanist solution for the Gulf Coast. It directly con- Personally, I had little to show for my time in Mississippi except
tradicted the plan the FEMA mitigation staffers had in mind. FEMA a speeding ticket and a new appreciation for buffet lunches. The work
wanted to designate a strict flood zone that called for a town built on was difficult—not just because of the grueling hours or living out of a
stilts. Duany warned the audience that they should be wary of FEMA’s hotel—but because a talented, capable staff was denied the opportu-
presentations. “You cannot live in a town where everything is raised nity to contribute.
ten feet,” he said. The experience would be unsatisfying, he said, and
the cost prohibitive.
After this stand-off, I was told to meet my field team of five at a
McDonald’s in Wiggins, Mississippi, the seat of Stone County. Wig-

page 47
LAST EXIT text and photos by Doug Giuliano

An Outsider Peers into

the FEMA Trailer
Our hero sets out to do a good deed by helping FEMA rebuild the Gulf Coast. But he
finds himself waylaid for weeks by a strange tribe of nomad bureaucrats in an outpost
near a Mississippi Piggly Wiggly

LAST FALL I MADE A PHONE CALL TO TEST THE FEMA WATERS. hotel in Jackson. Pretty soon I was watching cable TV and drinking a
I was quickly pulled into a riptide of inertia. High Life with the A/C on 60.
A few months after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania The next day I went to the address Mark had given me to look for
with a master’s in city planning, I still had not found the Philadelphia my contact, known to me only as Michelle. After getting through
planning job I wanted. It was November 2005, and a friend was doing security—no easy task—I found her. I told her my name and expected
debris cleanup after Hurricane Katrina in Florida. FEMA volunteering all the secret FEMA doors to open.
seemed like a way to use my degree, get a basic per diem, and help some “It’s Doug Giuliano.”
people out. My friend connected me with Mark, an engineer in Chicago, [Blank stare.]
who told me that I would be on a team of ten to twenty planners, archi- “It’s with a G. G-I-U...”
tects, and engineers creating a Hurricane Katrina recovery plan for the Michelle turned her back on me and asked her colleague: “Why
Mississippi Gulf Coast. Days later, Mark called me at my temp job and do they keep sending me these people? I have no idea who this is.
asked if I wanted to go to Mississippi. I had to be there in three days. Why do they keep sending me this shit?”
I showed up at the airport with only a driver’s license and got a Michelle then began to openly sob in her cubicle.
ticket to Jackson, Mississippi, courtesy of the engineering firm. At the This was my introduction to government bureaucracy. The next
Budget Rent-a-Car, I gave my name, used the magic word “Direct- few days felt like an anthropological field study: I had uncovered a
Bill,” and received the keys to a car. The same routine worked at the new tribe of nomadic North American bureaucrats who, once a year
continued on page 47
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