Out of the Ashes

When disaster strikes, city officials want to get things back to normal for their citizens and businesses as soon as possible. Most often this entails rebuilding lives, as well as putting back the structures that were destroyed. One good thing that can come out of a disaster is the opportunity to improve upon what was there before, allowing for an investment toward the future of a destroyed area, and making it better for citizens and businesses alike. A recent article published by www.governing.com detailed three municipalities and the steps they took to improve their cities and towns for the better following a disaster.

San Francisco, CA

October 17, 1989, saw a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the Bay Area. San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway was severely damaged, the two-tiered highway collapsing in several locations. Instead of rebuilding the structure, San Francisco’s mayor at the time, Art Agnos, opted to tear it down. To do so, he had to fight public opinion, as well as a federal government stuck in the ways of the past. He was able to convince them to give the city the funds to tear down the highway by showing that the cost to rebuild would match the same amount of funds as it would take to retrofit it. Fast forward to today, and the area where the highway once ran stands as a testament of effective city planning. The area has so far attracted billions of investment dollars and has become an area of new development in the city.

Tuscaloosa, AL

April 27, 2011, saw an EF4 tornado devastate downtown Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Instead of rebuilding the area to the way it was before the twister hit, city officials instead made bold plans to rezone property in the area to be more business friendly. This included rebuilding some low-income housing, as well as green areas such as the new City Walk, a 5.5-mile recreational area that follows the path of the storm. Business was also given incentives for building in the area, including interest-free loans.

Greensburg, KS

An EF5 tornado swept through the center of Greensburg, Kansas, on May 4, 2007, destroying 95% of the town. Instead of rebuilding the town to its previous state, a unique plan was developed. The town became a world model for sustainability and environmental friendliness. This included establishing a property tax incentive program for businesses that reopened or opened for the first time in the city and followed green building standards. The most telling of the city’s dedication to using green technology lies in the fact that all of its electricity comes from wind energy.


For more information about how three U.S. cities effectively rebuilt after a disaster, visit: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-cities-that-used-disasters-to-revitalize-their-futures.html