MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio-led project receives $100,000 Knight Cities Challenge grant

June 14th, 2017 Comments Off on MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio-led project receives $100,000 Knight Cities Challenge grant

Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is receiving a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for a project that seeks to increase community engagement on the city of Biloxi’s once segregated beaches, the city’s primary recreation space. (Submitted photo/courtesy of David Perkes)

By Sasha Steinberg | Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is receiving a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for a project that seeks to increase community engagement at the city of Biloxi’s primary recreation space.

Titled “Witnessing the Beach,” the project is among 33 winners of the foundation’s Knight Cities Challenge, which is designed to help spur civic innovation at the city, neighborhood and block levels through ideas generated by innovators from around the country.

Specifically, the challenge encourages applicants—nonprofits, for-profits and individuals, to name a few—to share ideas for making the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers more vibrant places to live and work. The challenge is made possible by The Knight Foundation, which supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. For more, visit http://knightcities.org.

This year, 4,500 applications were evaluated on the strength of the proposed project idea, its potential to advance talent, opportunity or engagement, and the plan to execute the project. Of those, 144 finalists were selected and evaluated on five criteria: impact, innovation, inspiration, learning and capacity. The Knight Foundation board of trustees chose 33 winners, including MSU’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio.

David Perkes, MSU professor and founding director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, officially accepted the award Monday evening [June 12] in Miami, Florida. He was accompanied by Bill Raymond, historical administrator for the City of Biloxi, one of the project’s co-sponsors. Other partners include the Biloxi Chapter of the NAACP.

Perkes said the primary objective of the proposed “Witnessing the Beach” project is to create a culture of engagement on Biloxi’s once segregated beaches.

“Biloxi’s beach is the city’s most used public space, but it is typically not programmed and the public access is taken for granted,” he said. “The organized 1960’s wade-in protests challenged the segregation of Biloxi’s beaches. Programming the beach in the same places the wade-in demonstrations were organized will create a highly visible place for community engagement.”

 “Cities are the product of their place and culture,” Perkes continued. “Biloxi’s beach and its African American population are primary components of the city’s history and present condition,” Perkes continued. “The Wade-in protesters are now seniors, and their witnesses of work to overcome racial discrimination in 1960 are especially needed today.”

Perkes said the proposed project calls for the construction of movable platforms that will be positioned on the beach at several Wade-in protest sites. The movable platforms would be created by a large, roll-out surface on which chairs can be set up and shade from the sun can be provided.

Additionally, the platform will be designed to support exhibit panels, which will help create a pop-up gallery on the beach. This changing exhibit space will give artists and other storytellers a unique and very public venue to showcase and discuss their work, thereby advancing Biloxi’s creative culture, Perkes said.

“Creating a movable event and exhibit place with a surface that is accessible to people with mobility limitations will expand the beach’s use and bring heroic Civil Rights stories to life. The space will connect people of different generations and races with today’s artists and youth, so they can share past stories and discuss today’s concerns,” Perkes said.

The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is a professional service and outreach program of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design. It was established in Biloxi in response to Hurricane Katrina to provide architectural design services, landscape and planning assistance, and educational opportunities and research to organizations and communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Through close, pragmatic partnerships, GCCDS works with local organizations and communities in and beyond Mississippi’s three coastal counties, putting professional expertise to work in an effort to shape vibrant and resilient Gulf Coast Communities. Learn more at gccds.org or www.msstate.edu/videos/2015/08/we-ring-true-gulf-coast-community-design-studio.

For more information on the GCCDS’s Knight Cities Challenge project, contact Perkes at 228-436-4661 or dperkes@gccds.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Read the story in The Sun Herald.

 
 

GCCDS planner discusses Katrina recovery on MPB

August 29th, 2013 Comments Off on GCCDS planner discusses Katrina recovery on MPB

Hurricane Katrina damage in Gulfport, Mississippi. Photo from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hurricane_katrina_damage_gulfport_mississippi.jpg

Hurricane Katrina damage in Gulfport, Mississippi. Photo from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hurricane_katrina_damage_gulfport_mississippi.jpg

Today is the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The monster storm caused $90 billion of damage throughout Mississippi. Some 52,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged on the Gulf Coast on that single day in 2005. Eight years later, signs of recovery in Mississippi are apparent from repaired and rebuilt schools to museums and homes.

Cheryl Wintzel describes some of the services offered to the homeless here at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi.

Wintzel and her fiancé are homeless now, living in their car and visit the mission four times a week for showers, food, and to look for work on the computers here. This wasn’t how she lived before Hurricane Katrina upended the economy on the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Unemployment leaped to 22 percent the month after the storm. It’s now about 8 percent, and Wintzel is still struggling to find steady work.

“It’s just like I can’t get a toe-hold, all that’s kind of at a standstill, it’s gone downhill financially and here I am,” says Wintzel.

Jill Cartledge is  a caseworker at Back Bay Mission. She says disruptions in jobs on top of unexpected rebuilding and moving costs after Katrina has led to a cycle of debt for many families on the Gulf Coast.

“Some of my families have just never gotten out from under since Katrina, and then there was the BP oil spill and many stuggled from that.  So there have just be so many things that have happened to the people on the Gulf Coast, some are Gulf Coast only oriented and others are national like our economy,” says Cartledge.

More than $2 billion dollars has been spent to restore and rebuild housing in Mississippi since Katrina. Most local community leaders agree there is now plenty of housing on the coast, with vacancy rates in the double-digits. But, they say, much of this housing isn’t affordable to the people who need it. Waiting lists for subsidized housing number in the thousands. But Cheryl Wintzel says it’s still a tough situation.

“Unless you can get in Section 8, if you can get in Biloxi housing based on your income, whatever it is, if you have to go out and pay full price on rent or a house payment, if you don’t have the money, the income coming in to pay it, you’re not going to be able to stay in it, you’re going to be right back out there, back and forth, homeless and in and unfortunately that is what has happened to me and my fiance,” continues Wintzel.

According to an analysis by the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, almost half of renters and a third of home owners on the coast are cost burdened – that is, they’re paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing.  Planner Kelsey Johnson says the question isn’t whether there’s as much housing now but whether the housing there is fits the coast’s current needs.

“If you probably look at the numbers, it’s probably pretty close, our housing has come back and we definitely have enough, I would say enough housing stock the question is, ‘Is it in the right place?’ and ‘Are people able to access that housing?’,” says Johnson.

Johnson says a number of factors have affected affordability: it costs more to build elevated homes, and homeowners insurance is expensive. But while wind premiums seem to have stabilized, Gulf Coast communities  are now facing the specter of skyrocketing flood insurance costs.

Diane Sager and her mother Bo are speaking to federal and state leaders, including the head of the national flood insurance program, while standing under their Henderson Point home. The house perches more than 18 feet above sea level. The Sagers built the home in 2008 at an elevation that they say was higher than even required at the time.

But new flood maps implemented the following year lifted the elevation requirement even higher. They’ve been grandfathered in for flood insurance, but a new law says they will now lose that grandfathering status the next time the area is mapped.

“I’m going from $500 to almost $7000 in flood insurance that’s totally out the wall it’s unbelievable, either grandfather us in because I did everything right so as a citizen I’m being punished for having done everything right, doesn’t make sense,” says Sager.

Diane’s parents, Bo and Jim, both in their 80s, are on fixed incomes. Bo tells the gathered officials that she’s had flood insurance since the 1970s and can’t imagine losing it.

“We need some kind of resolution so that we can rest better, at the age we’ve reached and we don’t rest because we don’t know what’s going to happen with this hurricane season,” says Bo.  “I never worried about hurricanes before, I’m used to hurricanes and I know how to avoid them and what to do but what happens now if we lose this with no insurance, I don’t know what we’ll do.”

Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott says the soaring flood insurance rates, which are already hitting second homes, could devastate beach communities like his, ruining property values.

“Wind coverage was bad, we knew that and all the people that are in the insurance business all said ‘If you can just go 8, 10, 12 years, it will settle down,’ so we live with that whether it does or not, you throw this flood in there, you just killed it, it’s over with,” says McDermott.

There are a number of efforts in Congress now to delay implementation of parts of the bill for one year, and Mississippi 4th District Congressman Steven Palazzo says he thinks there’s an appetite among lawmakers for finding a long-term solution as well.

Dean Jim West featured in Starkville Daily News

April 30th, 2013 Comments Off on Dean Jim West featured in Starkville Daily News

Jim West, dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design, gave a presentation on the college’s statewide impact at the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday, April 29 at the Starkville Country Club.

Click to read the article by Steven Nalley in the Starkville Daily News from April 30.

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