Moss Point, Mississippi is a smallish city just north of Pascagoula. Unlike most of the coastal cities, it is oriented not towards a beach and casinos but towards its riverfront, which is quite picturesque. They are rebuilding from flood damage sustained during Katrina, and the city government has decided to use this opportunity to revamp its vision for the city, focusing on becoming a progressive city with a first-class downtown, scenic riverfront, opportunities for eco-tourism and recreation, and revitalized neighborhoods.
For anyone interested in community-based design and hurricane recovery, Moss Point’s past two years have been very interesting. It turns out that Maurice Cox, my studio professor at UVA this past spring, has been working to facilitate Moss Point’s visioning work (he’s everywhere!); he even brought 30 Moss Point elected officials to Charlottesville several months after Katrina to share lessons about city and neighborhood planning. This past Thursday, I went to Moss Point with David and Christine from the GCCDS to meet with Maurice and many of Moss Point’s community leaders. One function of the meeting was to provide a lightning introduction to the workings of Moss Point. Once you have your foot in the door, it seems, everybody is right there–city aldermen and women, planners, FEMA officials, businessmen, a major architect, and others.
In addition to speeding up our learning curve, the meeting’s main purpose was to create a Design and Project Review committee that can represent the city and advise the mayor on design issues as the city engages in rebuilding its civic core, riverfront, Main Street, and several key neighborhoods. The GCCDS will hopefully be able to help, given our local experience and non-profit status. I don’t yet know what the full scope of our involvement will be, but I’m looking forward to getting involved. It’s a great community; the city government, and especially Mayor Xavier Bishop, certainly outclass their Biloxi equivalents; and it’s a chance to engage more broadly with a community than when working with individual clients.