In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast less than four weeks apart, damaging more than 200,000 homes, 81,000 businesses and 870 schools. More than 1,500 lives were lost and more than 1.3 million Louisianians were displaced. Areas along the southwestern Louisiana coast were decimated by winds and water, and nearly 80% of New Orleans was flooded when the federal levees failed.

The storms and the failure of the federal levee system in New Orleans left a legacy that will be felt for generations. But they did not diminish the spirit and determination of Louisiana’s people. The hurricanes created an opportunity to create a realistic plan that moves the state in a new direction, identifying near-term strategies for rebuilding our communities and a vision for long-term growth.

The Louisiana Speaks initiative included a regional planning effort, Parish Recovery Planning process, three demonstration charrettes, and development of the Louisiana Speaks Pattern Book and Toolkit. All four initiatives used an open, public process designed to encourage and engage as many citizens as possible in developing ideas and concepts for rebuilding. Louisiana Speaks combined the efforts of local, state and federal partners along with many experts, stakeholders and citizens into a comprehensive approach that will guide recovery and growth over the next 50 years to make Louisiana safer, stronger and smarter in the future.

Louisiana Speaks hosted more than 1,000 public workshops, collected over 2,500 surveys, and polled 23,000 people.

Regional Planning Effort
The Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan, led by Calthorpe Associates, was the result of 18 months of work built upon and validated by the inclusion of 35 coastal parishes (counties), 25,000 square miles covered and the involvement of 27,000 citizens. At the plan’s heart lies a desire to preserve and enhance our distinctive cultures and our quality of life. The plan is the largest recovery, redevelopment and planning effort in American history. The plan was broken into four interlocking tracks: building planning, neighborhood planning, parish planning and regional planning.

Demonstration Charettes
A series of three demonstration planning charrettes was conducted by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company in three separate locations that have distinctly different urban conditions. The first charrette was held in Lake Charles from February 5-11, 2006. The city came up with a community plan to jump start and guide local recovery efforts and the Lake Charles Downtown Plan has since been adopted. The second charrette was the Vermilion/South Acadiana Plan held February 13-19, 2006 and their Master Plan has since been adopted. The final charrette was the Arabi/St. Bernard Plan held March 6-15, 2006 and a master plan has been adopted. Additional information on the Lake Charles Downtown Plan is available.

Pattern Book
To address building level safety and design, the Louisiana Speaks Pattern Book and the Louisiana Land Use Toolkit were developed. The architectural “Pattern Book” and planning “Toolkit” are resources for homeowners, builders and developers which include storm-safe techniques, sustainable design, and other innovative building technologies. Urban Design Associates worked with local developers, architects and planners to develop the Pattern Book.

Planning Toolkit
Urban Design Associates also led the development of the Planning Toolkit, another resource for rebuilding Louisiana’s architectural vernacular. It is a resource for the most innovative and progressive methods of planning and urban design. The Toolkit also contains resource listings that direct readers to sources of more in-depth information on each topic addressed.