Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Knight Foundation provided $10 million in grants to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to assist the recovery. The focus was on mounting a long-term, activist response and to bring in high-profile “new urbanism” planners and architects to help residents chart new communities. This article reviews the impact of the support and the efforts to rebuild the coast.

Approach: The reporter analysis involved interviews with Gulf Coast political leaders, local partners and Knight Foundation staff. Report Partners: The report was produced by Dick Polman.


  • The Mississippi Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal (CRRR), which was created with Knight support, staged town meetings and helped infuse ‘new urbanism’ ideas into the rebuilding effort.

  • The efforts to create mixed-used, walkable communities were embraced, albeit in fits and starts, by a number of coastal towns and local communities as evidenced by projects and zoning-code reforms in Gulfport, Pascagoula, Moss Point, Ocean Springs and D’Iberville.

  • However, the new-urbanist vision articulated by the Mississippi Commission did create local tensions, which often impeded their recovery efforts. A reorganized Gulf Coast Community Foundation helped revive the battered local nonprofit sector. Grants to Living Cities also trained public officials on effective governing during crisis.