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Community Voices: Creating Resilient Communities

Sean Sullivan

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Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

As cities and towns around Florida grapple with how to plan for sea level rise and flooding, it’s critical that our leaders share ideas and best practices for resiliency. 

As a region, we’ve taken an important first step, as 29 area municipalities have joined the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, with a shared understanding that we need to protect where we live, one of the nation’s most vulnerable areas to higher sea levels and extreme weather.

Now, it’s time to ramp up the sharing of best practices – learning from other areas that are further along in making their communities more resilient – and to start determining how to turn conceptual ideas into reality.

This is why the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is encouraging representatives from business, government, nonprofits and academia to attend the upcoming January summit, “Champions of Change: Creating Resilient Communities.”  

The summit – the first event of its kind in the Tampa Bay area – will bring together state, national and international experts as well as local stakeholders Jan. 7 and 8 in St. Petersburg. Many voices are needed as we define goals for transforming our communities over the next five to 10 years. The summit will address key topics such as how to make our communities more resilient, how to finance resiliency efforts and how to be able to recover quickly after a major weather event.

This event, organized by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, exemplifies the type of information-sharing that is at the core of the Council’s mission. We work with 27 west-central Florida municipalities to help them make long range plans related to the future of the Tampa Bay region. 

In the spirit of cooperation and sharing of ideas, the summit will facilitate an exchange of ideas involving experts from around Florida and from well beyond our state.

Stephen Costello, the City of Houston’s Chief Recovery Officer, will share lessons learned in the summit’s Resilient Communities session. Initiatives in Houston have included redevelopment of a defunct golf course that will create a green space with basins that could hold up to 370 million gallons of storm water. The Texas city, which has been plagued with flooding and hurricanes, has also established Neighborhood Restoration Centers to bring one-stop disaster relief to flooding victims. 

And Christine Morris, former Norfolk Chief Resilience Officer, will talk about how Norfolk is implementing a resiliency plan with far-reaching social and economic impacts in that Virginia city. Development and redevelopment projects must achieve a minimum threshold of points based on a “resilience quotient,” with points awarded for building on higher elevations, installing onsite storm water treatment facilities and including ways to generate alternative energy.

Also, to better manage storm water flooding, Norfolk is creating rain gardens to reduce runoff, along with installing more pump stations and upgrading draining systems underneath roads.  

The Champions of Change summit will also feature a discussion on resiliency with Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor – the first discussion of its type involving the region’s three largest cities.

Other speakers include Gladys Cook of the Florida Housing Coalition, who will discuss rebuilding resilient communities and affordable housing; Claire Bonham-Carter, Director of Sustainable Development at AECOM, a multinational infrastructure and engineering firm, who will share why regional collaboration is key to significant change; and Julia Nesheiwat, Florida Chief Resilience Officer, who has made it clear she’s ready to get things done in addressing resiliency issues. 

This summit will provide crucial takeaways about what’s happening in other cities and what could work in the Tampa Bay region. The Council encourages you to attend, and to stress to local government representatives and staff the importance of taking part in this summit. More information is available at www.tbrpc.org.

 

Sean Sullivan is Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

 

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