Miami architect plans new Port-au-Prince (Miami Herald-2/2/2011)

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI
aviglucci@MiamiHerald.com
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Famed Miami architect and planner Andres Duany's government-commissioned blueprint for the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince's quake-decimated historic city center envisions a new, middle-class residential, commercial and governmental district literally built upon the rubble of the old. While sparing the few remaining viable structures -- including, most significantly, the partially collapsed National Palace -- the plan would start virtually with a clean slate. It calls for clearing much of the badly damaged city center, encompassing some 25 city blocks, which pre-earthquake contained a dense mix of government buildings, homes, a commercial district and a cruise port. Duany's Miami firm, known for its advocacy of traditional, pedestrian-friendly urban planning, was commissioned by the Haitian government to develop the plan in collaboration with The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, a charity backed by Britain's Prince Charles that supports ecologically sound planning and building. The planners outlined their ideas this week in Port-au-Prince after weeks of research and a weeklong public workshop. A final version of the plan, which would have to be adopted by the government, is due in mid-February. A slide presentation is available at www.PortAuPrinceRP.com.
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Whether Haiti can muster the will or the financing, though, remains an open question. Enacting the plan would require a blend of government funding, private investment and foreign aid. On ground raised above flood levels by the use of demolition rubble, the plan calls for self-contained blocks mixing one- and two-story residential and commercial buildings to be constructed in small, incremental phases. While street fronts would be public, courtyard interiors would be secure and private and include parking. Small corner parks would dot most blocks. The plan also proposes a Classically inspired, naturally ventilated prototype for new government buildings to replace those toppled by last year's catastrophic earthquake. Key to Duany's overall rebuilding strategy would be luring back to central Port-au-Prince some of the Haitian middle class that had decamped for the city's hilltop suburbs -- the only financially viable way for the old city center to be rebuilt, Duany has said in interviews.
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Reconstruction of the city would be impossible without the investment and income of middle- and upper-class property owners, Duany says. The plan outlines three possible approaches to rebuilding. To keep initial costs down, one approach would be to rebuild a single block at a time, with each urban ``village'' containing at its center its own power generation, water and sewer capabilities, at a cost of about $3.7 million per block. That would avoid the need for a large, upfront and improbable investment to replace destroyed utilities across the entire urban center. But that approach would over time be far more expensive -- a total of $440 million -- than doing everything at once with centralized utilities, which the planners estimated would cost $175 million. The plan would require new building codes and zoning rules to control what can be built. It proposes a range of rigor, with the loosest set of regulations allowing informal construction in the interior of each block. A contemplated retail complex and waterfront promenade would cater to an incipient tourist trade from the cruise port to supplement government and small-business employment.
Along the waterfront, mangroves would be replanted to protect the shoreline from storms. Duany, whose firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., drew up Miami's new pedestrian-friendly Miami 21 city zoning code, also has designed prefabricated shelter housing for Haiti. He also has designed redevelopment projects for post-Katrina New Orleans, although only small parts have been implemented.

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