It's really common for small towns to have some kind of large-scale disaster due to flood or similar and promptly vow to rebuild everything exactly as it was before.

This seems to be an attempt to comfort people who are in shock and probably some degree of admitting that making a functional downtown is complicated and hard and few people seem to have any idea how to intentionally make it happen, so best to rebuild what we had already and hope to recapture some portion of the magic that was there before than imagine we know what we are doing.

Actual reality: Once it's gone, it's gone and you may not be able to recapture the magic, even if you rebuild it as it was.

If you are a citizen planner, part of a Main Street USA organization, mayor of a small town or similar, try to do something a LITTLE better than that. You could be working on potential plans on an ongoing basis and WHEN disaster hits -- and it's pretty much guaranteed that something will happen at some point -- propose that "We could use this as an opportunity to fix x, y and z while things are getting redone ANYWAY. Though I agree we should LARGELY rebuild...blah blah blah..."

Have a list of relatively small tweaks you would like to see that would be an excessive burden to ask people to do ordinarily but if you have to rebuild from scracth anyway it wouldn't be much more to also do X -- or X and Y or maybe even X, Y and Z.

Try to keep it to no more than three things, though you could have it be three CATEGORIES of things with a menu of options for each category. ("New buildings will mitigate flooding (here are your options for meeting this requirement: blah blah blah).")

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, such as Coastal Washington, look up your local building codes and zoning codes, research best practices from around the world and have a list of suggested best practices for rebuilding better to be more prepared for the next quake.

If you live in a flood-prone area, come up with a list of best practices for co-existing more happily with floods.

If you are in Coastal Washington and a large portion of your town is in the tsunami zone, look up best practices for BOTH earthquakes AND flooding, especially from tsunamis.

Have your research ready to go BEFOREHAND. Have MODEST proposals with clear benefits that aren't a big burden to add. Have a succinct argument for WHY this should be adopted in the aftermath of a disaster when everyone is in shock and every little thing seems like "too much" to bear.

If you do this well, you will strengthen the town for the long term and come out smelling like a winner.

Popular Posts