Smart People: Page 8 of 24

Mon, 2015-10-26 13:58 -- Jon DeKeles
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Within four years after the 50-foot (19-meter) tsunami washed away homes and businesses, nearly 500 new homes were built. So, too, were businesses and parks. There is a newly reconstructed foreshore, which gives the public more prime area to enjoy the water and also provides more protection should another tsunami ever hit. Open space and recreation areas are a key feature of all the new housing developments. More riverfront areas were also turned into public walkways and parks. The city is also putting the finishing touches on its new cultural center.

Looking at its new downtown, which is truly something to envy, the city credits its hybrid planning approach. The disaster provided an incredible opportunity for the community to improve its livability and sustainability, and allowing the public to drive the process resulted in a true transformation that simply wouldn't have been possible if it was driven by politics. But the public also couldn't do it alone. The city started the process by preparing a very rough vision that it encouraged participants to attack. This jumpstarted discussion, preventing the citizens from getting stuck in the very first phase. Co-design was what the city called its approach: the city provided guidance and resources to help citizens achieve their vision. It also helped that people came together to discuss issues in public; social media is no substitute for talking face-to-face.  And participation remained strong throughout the process. Often a rebuilding process like this has strong initial interest but rapidly loses steam.

The project was paid for by a forestry company – one of the biggest businesses in Constitución. Normally, that would be viewed as a huge liability. Instead, the company was just another participant in the discussions. It funded the work with no strings attached. Any unease about its potential influence quickly vanished due to the way it conducted itself. It ensured that it had no more of a voice than anyone else.

Within four years after the 50-foot (19-meter) tsunami washed away Constitución homes and businesses, nearly 500 new homes were built. So, too, were businesses and parks. There is a newly reconstructed foreshore, which gives the public more prime area to enjoy the water and also provides more protection should another tsunami ever hit.

Open space and recreation areas are a key feature of all the new housing developments. More riverfront areas were also turned into public walkways and parks. The city is also putting the finishing touches on its new cultural center.

Looking at its new downtown, which is truly something to envy, the city credits its hybrid planning approach. The disaster provided an incredible opportunity for the community to improve its livability and sustainability, and allowing the public to drive the process resulted in a true transformation that most likely wouldn't have been possible if it was driven by politics.

But the public also couldn't do it alone. The city started the process by preparing a very rough vision that it encouraged participants to attack. This jumpstarted the lively debates about the city's future.

Co-design is what the city called its approach: the city provided guidance and resources to help citizens achieve their vision. It also helped that people came together to discuss issues in public; in circumstances like this one, there's much to be said for talking face-to-face.