Planners and developers from all over the nation hit the streets of South Mississippi Thursday to begin the task of shaping the Coast of the future. A seven person team from the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal spent the day in Waveland, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
The challenge is to bring back the historical charm in what will practically be a new city.
As the planners toured Waveland's Coleman Avenue, they looked at the devastation in total amazement.
"Did anybody live through this?" architect Robert Orr asked. "It's so much more devastating then I even imagined."
"Nothing could have created such destruction except maybe an atomic bomb," architect Catherine Johnson said.
It didn't take long for the planners to see they have their work cut out for them. They brain stormed with Waveland residents and business owners to find out how the community would like to see the city develop.
"What I'd like to see is we need more commercial down here. I think we need at least three streets of commercial," business owner Sue Ashman said.
Ashman owns one of the 28 Coleman Avenue businesses destroyed by the storm.
"This is a very diverse community and our artists are spread throughout the community. The galleries are clustered along Main Street in Bay St. Louis. There were galleries here on Coleman Avenue too," artist Gwen Impson said.
Others wanted planners to know about the natural assets they'd like highlighted in a new Waveland.
"The beach is our park, it's our entity, and I think we should play up what we have to bring people here as tourists and to bring people who want to live here too," Kathy Pinn said.
"I would love to see the Highway 90 area of Waveland better connected to the areas like Coleman Avenue. That has always been an obstruction to flow tourists," Hancock County Tourism Bureau Director Beth Carriere said.
After listening to residents and touring the town, the planners were ready to put the information they gathered to work.
"Traditional neighborhoods have certain characteristics that we haven't seen in conventional development in the last couple of decades. One of them is that the streets are all connected to one another, so you can walk around and come upon another place you've never seen before. Guess what? Waveland already has that very ideal situation - most of the streets connect," Johnson said.
That's a concept they will likely build upon as these city planners move forward. Once they come up with a design for the city, they'll present a report to Waveland city leaders.