Three months after the Camp Fire burned most of Paradise to the ground, baby steps are being taken to remake the town, including the hiring of a group to ask residents the best way to rebuild.
Urban Design Associates, a design firm based out of Pittsburgh, Penn., was contracted by the Butte Strong Foundation to help reconstruct the town. The first step, according to a principal planner Barry Long, is to contact residents and listen to what they would like a new Paradise to look like.
"Our role is not to come in and tell the town how to rebuild,” Long said. “Our role is to act as their hands in creating a plan for rebuilding.”
The group will host a series of listening workshops — the dates are not yet set — and later will convene design gatherings that will eventually lead to a town blueprint.
Long says it is on an accelerated schedule, and he hopes to have the information required to plan a new community by early May.
But there’s a difference between doing something quickly and doing it too fast, he says.
"We don't want to run so fast that we leave the residents behind,” said Long, who acknowledges this outreach component is more difficult given the number of people who fled the flames and haven’t returned.
“The residents are scattered. So, getting our community engagement process in place is critically important,” Long said.
Unlike a site that was completely decimated above and below ground, building blocks remain in place in Paradise. “Approximately 9,000 homes is the number we've heard that were burned. There's still 1,600 residences in the town that did not,” Long reminded. “There's a number of commercial buildings that are still standing. The parks are intact. We have over 200 miles total of public and private streets. We have a water system.”
Long says people have already begun voicing their opinions, and his group is considering everything from public safety to affordability as it reimagines Paradise.
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