A Katrina 5th Anniversary Success Story
Broadmoor – Harvard Kennedy School Alliance Results in Rebuilt, Revitalized Community
August 30, 2010
Author: Sharon Wilke, Associate Director of Communications
Five years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, one stand-out recovery success story is the neighborhood of Broadmoor and its unique collaboration with Harvard Kennedy School through the Belfer Center's "Broadmoor Project."
Broadmoor, the New Orleans neighborhood of 7,200 that was once under seven feet of water and experienced severe damage to more than ninety percent of its properties, has now brought back 84.5 percent of its homes and businesses. With the opening of a new $30 million LEED-certified charter school and construction underway on a fine arts and wellness center, and with ground being broken for a library/community center in a new "green" education corridor, Broadmoor has become a model of disaster recovery efforts for other neighborhoods, cities, and even countries.
In March 2006, only months after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the first Harvard students arrived in Broadmoor. Using skills they developed at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and other Harvard graduate schools, they went to work, assisting the long-standing Broadmoor Improvement Association (BIA) in developing, documenting, and implementing a recovery plan that could also be used as a model for other neighborhoods working to meet a deadline set by the city for that spring.
The HKS-Broadmoor alliance was the brainchild of Doug Ahlers, a Belfer Center senior fellow who mobilized the Kennedy School and its students and established the Broadmoor Project within the Belfer Center. Directed by Ahlers, the project is overseen by Henry Lee, director of the Center's Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP) who serves as faculty chair, and coordinated by ENRP's Amanda Swanson. HKS Assistant Academic Dean Carolyn Wood has worked closely with Ahlers and students to ensure the success of the Broadmoor project. For five years, with support from the Kennedy School community, Ahlers and BIA director LaToya Cantrell and other Broadmoor leaders have persisted, against daunting odds, to coordinate the redevelopment and revival of the neighborhood.
Nick Grudin (MPP '06), who was among the first group of students in Broadmoor, said on his return to the School that year, "As a student..., I have spent the last two years learning about the theories, ideals, and iterations of democracy. But it was not until I stepped into a Broadmoor Neighborhood Association meeting that I saw self-government in its rawest form - citizens organizing to save their own livelihood."
The Broadmoor-HKS alliance continues today with two summer 2010 interns bringing to more than 100 the number of Kennedy School and other Harvard graduate students who have worked in Broadmoor during spring and fall breaks and summers during the past five years.
September Hargrove (MPP/UP '11), a candidate for a joint degree in public policy and urban planning from Harvard Kennedy School and the Graduate School of Design, focused her summer on development of the "education corridor" on General Pershing Street in Broadmoor, an eight-block section of schools, a library and community center, and a fine arts and wellness center. Another summer intern, Andrew Reovan (GSD '11), a student at the School of Design, worked on creating a visual brand for the neighborhood and graphically illustrating five years of successful recovery.
This fall at the Kennedy School, Ahlers will teach a class titled "Disaster Recovery Management and Urban Planning: Rebuilding New Orleans," using Katrina and New Orleans as a semester-long case study. Part of the class will be a field-based research project where the students apply their classroom skills to real-world problems faced by the Broadmoor neighborhood. Ahlers will also teach a January term class where students will spend two weeks living and working in Broadmoor, applying lessons learned in their courses at HKS, with direct and immediate impact on Broadmoor's current efforts to rebuild and recover. Students can take either the fall course or the January course, or they can take both for an even more in-depth exploration of the issues involved in rebuilding communities after catastrophic disasters.
Many students who have spent summers or school breaks in Broadmoor say the work was their defining academic experience. Chris Edell (MPA ‘10), who graduated from HKS last spring, calls his work with Ahlers and Broadmoor "the most significant experience I had at Harvard."
The Broadmoor post-Katrina redevelopment model, which is documented in a booklet that HKS student Rebecca Hummel (MPP '07) worked with community leaders to articulate and design, has been of great interest not only to other New Orleans neighborhoods, but also to cities ranging from San Francisco to flood ravaged towns in Oregon. Hummel, now in Afghanistan working with USAID's Afghanistan Stabilization Initiative, says she applies much of what she learned in Broadmoor to her current work in Afghanistan. "Just as the approach for community redevelopment in New Orleans is based on specific dynamics on the ground in the Broadmoor neighborhood, so is the stabilization programming approach with the Office of Transition Initiatives in Afghanistan developed and designed to meet the unique needs of each situation all they way down the district and village levels."
The Broadmoor-Kennedy School alliance has been successful, Ahlers says, because of the time, energy, creativity, and individual commitments of many individuals - students, staff, faculty, and administration - at the Kennedy School. "The project would never have worked without the support of Dean Ellwood and his office and without the commitment of Graham Allison and the Belfer Center, which took the lead on this."
"Through our work with Broadmoor," Ahlers says, "the Kennedy School has applied what we teach - focused and concentrated in one community - a proof of the concept that we can help a community develop its capacity and capabilities so that it can change its own trajectory. If Broadmoor, which lost everything and started again with nothing, can build a community, then it can be done anywhere."
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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