Although many Gulf Coast buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the region’s infrastructure remains basically intact, and its generally high land values stable. The combination offers "a chance for a new beginning along the lines of the principles of urbanism," says architect-planner Andres Duany.

Duany and his firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., Miami., have been involved creating plans for more than 200 new and existing towns. His latest challenge is to create a regional plan for 11 towns along 120 miles of Gulf Coast, with a population of more than 150,000 people. His continuing aim is to wipe out sprawl.

To help draft a plan, Duany is organizing a charette, Oct. 11-18, in Biloxi, Miss. The charette is drawing in 100 planners from all over the U.S. They will be joined by 100 locals.

The invitation to hold the charette came from Miss. Gov. Haley R. Barbour (R). It is under the auspices of Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism. Duany will work for a fraction of his firm’s usual fee.

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For the most part, the towns have street grids and property lines in place, says Duany. There is no engineering investment required.

Duany intends to prepare a regional plan that incorporates neighborhoods. "There’s a chance for pedestrian life to flourish," he says. "Maybe transit will work."

He hopes to engage big box stores, fast food joints and strip malls in new urbanist principles. He intends to "take on" the big arterials and "civilize" them into avenues. One goal is streamlined permitting. Another is to require more durable construction, through hardier materials and elevated structures. The plan would require the architecture to be more sensitive to the area’s tradition and to the environment, says Duany.

After the charette, it will take three weeks to prepare the documents. Beyond that, Duany does not know how long it will take to get the plan adopted. But he guesses it could take 15 years to implement.