Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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A 'Reporter Analysis' Evaluation Feature
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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.

Projects discussed in this publication

Living Cities

To support Living Cities and the Integration Initiative, a multidisciplinary focus on both neighborhood and system transformation in five cities, including St. Paul and Detroit

Living Cities

To expand and deepen a collaborative investment to improve urban neighborhoods in 23 communities

About our Communities focus area

We invest in civic innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement.

About our Reporter analysis series methodology

Knight Foundation commissions independent journalists to write articles reviewing its grant-making and program strategies.