Happy New Year!!!

The GCCDS staff is back in the office after a welcome winter break spent with family and friends all over the country. We are excited about several of our projects on tap for 2014! Be sure to check back to see progress on Bayou Auguste Restoration, Gulf Coast Plan for Opportunity, Rotten Bayou Watershed Implementation Plan, Sarracenia Park, Rebuild by Design and much more. Happy New Year everyone!

GCCDS is Hiring!

The design studio plans to hire two public design interns and one community planner.  Applicants must apply online at www.jobs.msstate.edu.  The design studio’s work has evolved from rebuilding to long-term resiliency and is recognized as a national leader in public interest practice.  In 2010 the design studio created the Public Design Certificate to provide a program for interns to work on a range of community-based design projects and to get graduate level course credits for study and research in public interest design.    For more information on the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio visit gccds.org.

Community Planner

The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is seeking qualified applicants for a Community Planner to work in Biloxi, Mississippi on planning and urban design projects.  The work ranges from regional planning to neighborhood-scale urban design.  All the projects work with community partners and include a variety of outreach and education efforts.  The essential duties and responsibilities include planning and designing projects at a range of scales, using GIS mapping and planning tools, organizing and participating in community meetings, and supervising the work of interns.  The qualifications are a professional degree in urban planning, urban design, or architecture and five years of planning or architecture experience.

GCCDS Public Design Intern

The Public Design Certificate program combines work experience with research and study in community-based design practice.   The qualifications are a degree in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, or urban design.  The Public Design interns work on a range of community design projects for three-quarters of the time and receive graduate level course credit for research and study for one-quarter of the time.  Interns work under the direction of Gulf Coast Community Design Studio professional staff and have many opportunities to engage in the community and work with various partner organizations.  The intern period is at least one year and can be planned for up to two years.  The aim of the program is for emerging design professionals to develop practical and leadership skills along with an understanding of public interest design.

GCCDS Has Officially Moved

We recently relocated to our new home in the heart of downtown Biloxi! Our new office is located at 769 Howard Ave. Be on the lookout for an announcement with the date and time for our dedication/open house so we can celebrate with all of our friends, partners and colleagues. The new space is large enough to host meetings and reviews, and gives us plenty of space to grow our staff. Come stop by and see the progress!

Tulane Students at GCCDS


NOAA Coastal Services Center Visits GCCDS

Last week GCCDS staff got the chance to visit with Jillian Lartigue and Marian Hanisko from NOAA Coastal Services Center.  While the conversation covered a wide range of topics, GCCDS was excited to be introduced to Digital Coast. Digital Coast is a data center that provides coastal communities with information and tools to address complex coastal issues. Two of the many tools that Digital Coast provides are the Sea Level Rise Viewer and the Historical Hurricane Tracks.  You can also take a look at your county in the Coastal Counties Snapshots database.

While the Coastal Services Center provides data, analysis tools, and training, their scope of work does not include providing specific recommendations for jurisdictions and organizations to address their unique and collective challenges.  This is where the planners and designers at GCCDS can help!


GCCDS Helps to Wrap up First Annual Woman’s Build

During the past several months the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio had the opportunity to partner with Women in Construction and INL Construction for the Women in Construction’s first annual Blitz Build. Through a generous donation from Kaiser Permanente and the help of 35 Kaiser employees from all over the country who volunteered their time, the house was able to reach 60% completion in only 5 days! GCCDS had the pleasure of working with the homeowners: Jana, Jana’s mother, and her daughter, Mia, to design a house that would not only keep them safe from future storms, but would help be a part of their family’s new start in east Biloxi.

The Design Team with Mia

To see more photos from the week of the build and to hear firsthand accounts from the volunteers about their experiences click HERE.

GCCDS Wraps Up First Phase of Pre-Development Grant

GCCDS and the South Mississippi Housing and Development Corporation (SMHD) have successfully wrapped up the first phase of the Enterprise Community Partners Inc. pre-development design grant. This pilot program is intended to help enable the developers to define project goals, identify challenges, explore multiple design solutions and increase collaboration. The grant encourages lasting changes in the pre-development design process of affordable housing by providing an opportunity to bring together a diverse network of potential architects, the developers, city leaders and other experts to establish a robust development team from the onset of the project.

SMHD has chosen to focus on the senior living project “Villages at the Beverly” in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. GCCDS facilitated a unique, day-long work shop for 4 design teams compromised of architects from all over the state.

The workshop focused on the development of the program, history of the site and its relation to the city and potential green building strategies for the project. The day also included an opportunity for the whole development team to visit the site, and concluded with each of the design teams giving a short presentation about first impressions for the project.

The GCCDS and SMHD will meet with all of the design teams in 4-6 weeks to review their presentations for the Villages at the Beverly.

GCCDS Gets Energy Smart

GCCDS participated in the Powering Renewal Energy Open Houses on Saturday, October 6th at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center and USM’s Gulf Coast Research Lab.  Powering Renewal is a program working to bring more clean energy to the Gulf Coast and to raise awareness about everyday energy efficiency opportunities for coastal residents, businesses and communities.

Did you know utility bills represent the 4th highest expense in the American family’s budget?  GCCDS was able to share information about household energy costs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and energy efficiency tips, programs and policies available to help residents save money.  The research was part of the studio’s regional planning work for the Plan for Opportunity.  See our Get ENERGY SMART handout.

In addition, GCCDS will soon be able to test homes for energy efficiency thanks to a Department of Energy grant!  Staff members are currently being trained under the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) and will be able to rate a home’s energy usage, energy loss and costs.

GCCDS is also partnering with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and The Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation on two unique programs aimed at creating more energy efficiency in existing homes.  More updates to come!

A Comprehensive…and Sometimes Controversial Look at Housing on the Coast

Since early 2011, the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio has been an active partner in a regional planning initiative for Mississippi’s three coastal counties known as the Plan for Opportunity.   The planning process hopes to better understand the housing, transportation, economic development and environmental systems on the Gulf Coast; foster stronger relationships between jurisdictions and local organizations; and offer recommended strategies to achieve a more prosperous and equitable Gulf Coast.  More information on the Plan for Opportunity and partner organizations can be found at www.gulfcoastplan.org.

GCCDS has been the lead researcher on the housing component of the Plan for Opportunity.   Back in April the team sent out a press release looking at the complex and controversial story of tax credit housing in the three coastal counties based on its research for the Plan for Opportunity.   The press release was picked up by WLOX, The Sun Herald and The Sea Coast Echo.  Click HERE for the complete Press Release.   Since then, GCCDS has completed a comprehensive Housing Assessment looking at issues like insurance, finance, vacancy and abandonment, energy efficiency and Fair Housing.

Next up…

GCCDS is putting the finishing touches on a legal and spatial analysis looking at zoning regulations and access to different types of housing in the jurisdictions across the coast.  Zoning is a land-use planning tool that has been utilized by local governments and constitutionally upheld in the United States since 1926.[i]  Zoning ordinances most typically regulate development through land use classifications and dimensional standards, but since the 1980s more municipalities have started using form-based codes that allow for greater flexibility and mixed uses.  While zoning is intended to protect and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the public in accordance with a municipality’s comprehensive plan, the regulations can have the side effect of reducing the affordability and accessibility of housing in that jurisdiction.  This is often an unintentional side effect, though in some cases it is an intentional, formalized expression of NIMBY attitudes (“Not in my back yard”).[ii]

Zoning regulations that limit a protected population’s access to affordable, quality housing are considered exclusionary.  The most common zoning regulations that affect the affordability or access to housing include the following:

  • Design guidelines that increase building costs
  • Costly application requirements for special permits or variances
  • Restrictive definitions of “family” and “group home”
  • Minimum lot size requirements
  • Minimum floor area requirements
  • Restrictions or limitations on the development or placement of multi-family or manufactured housing.

Local zoning codes were reviewed for the fore-mentioned regulations.  While many of these regulations directly affect access to affordable housing, they are not necessarily an impediment to fair housing choice as defined by HUD or in violation of the Fair Housing Act because low income households are not a protected class.[iii]  However, if a regulation has a disparate impact or disproportionate affect on a population of a certain race, color, religion, sex, ability, family status, or national origin the regulation may be deemed a violation of the Fair Housing Act.[iv]  This assessment will look at both the potential of local zoning codes to impede access to affordable housing and to have a disparate impact on protected classes.  Stay tuned to see how we are doing here on the coast!


[i] Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. , 272 U.S. 365 (1926).

[ii] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (n.d.). Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  Fair Housing Planning Guide. The Fair Housing Information Clearinghouse. Page 5-6.

[iii] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (n.d.). Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.  Fair Housing Planning Guide. The Fair Housing Information Clearinghouse.  Pages 2-16 – 2-17

[iv] Pratt, Sara K. and Robert G. Schwemm. (2009). Disparate Impact under the Fair Housing Act: A Proposed Approach. Commissioned by the National Fair Housing Alliance. December 2009. Web. Page 3.

Bayou Auguste Neighborhood Wetland Park Receives AIA Citation Award

On July 7, 2012 the Bayou Auguste Neighborhood Wetland Park received a Citation Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. David Perkes, Britton Jones, and Sarah Jones of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS), an outreach program of Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art + Design, accepted the award on behalf of the partnership responsible for the restoration work on Bayou Auguste. The project is a collaborative effort between the GCCDS, Biloxi Housing Authority, City of Biloxi, Biloxi Public Schools, Cypress Environmental Science and Management, and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain.

With grant funding, as well as in-kind donations and volunteer labor, the partnership restored one acre of wetland habitat along Bayou Auguste in East Biloxi’s Hope VI neighborhood. Like many other wetland habitats along the coast, Bayou Auguste has been seriously impacted over time. Wetlands along the bayou were filled in and its natural meandering course was straightened, forming a steeply cut channel that degraded the bayou’s function and aesthetic appeal.  To reveal the site’s social and ecological potential, the project reshaped the stream banks to create tidal marsh habitat and open views into the constructed wetland.  The newly formed Bayou Auguste Wetland Park provides a unique opportunity for the community to enjoy wildlife in their own neighborhood.

Each year the AIA chooses architecture professionals from another state to review project submissions and assign award winners. This year the jury was lead by Arkansas Architect Marlon Blackwell. The jury commented that the “design work and implementation brought back the complexity of the bayou,” and “…the richness of the environment,” as well as demonstrating, “…an alternative model to how we develop the land.” Since the landscape is newly planted and still reaching maturity it was pointed out that the “Bayou needs to evolve and grow and needs to be evaluated again in a few years.”

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Mississippi AIA for the value and importance this type of project brings to the communities and environments of the Gulf Coast,” said Britton Jones, Landscape Architect with GCCDS. “We are very grateful for all of the hard work and support we had from our project partners and volunteers. None of this would have been possible without their help.”

The partnership has been awarded grant funding to restore another section of Bayou Auguste this Fall and continues to search for funding opportunities to expand restoration efforts into the future as well as develop a series of nature trails, piers, and overlooks for the Bayou Auguste Neighborhood Wetland Park.

Additional information about the project can be found at




Welcome Laura and Mai!

GCCDS welcomed two new employees in February.  Joining us are intern architect Laura Shagalov and planner Mai Dang.

Laura comes to us from Minneapolis, MN, where she researched and evaluated home energy consumption.  Prior to her work in the Midwest, Laura worked for an architectural firm in Berkeley, CA, specializing in accessible residential design.  Her energy efficiency and accessibility expertise are a great addition to our team.  Welcome Laura!

Mai recently graduated from the Master of City Planning program at MIT.  During her graduate studies, Mai worked closely with a non-profit affordable housing development organization in Boston, MA.  Joining the GCCDS has brought Mai back to the Gulf Coast, where she has 3 years of community organizing and development experience post-Katrina.  We are excited to have her on board.  Welcome Mai!