Green Recovery in Greensburg, Kansas

Award-winning streetscape project helps rebuild a tornado-damaged town

Courtesy BNIM and Farshid Assassi

Ever since an EF-5 tornado plowed through town in May of 2007, redevelopment has had a different definition in Greensburg, Kansas. About 90 percent of the small town was effectively destroyed. Rebuilding was a challenging prospect, but also one of opportunity. And as the community prepared to bring the town back to life, they decided to take decisive steps toward becoming a sustainable example of green redevelopment.

The city’s recovery has been underway for the past few years, and while it’s not finished, progress has been impressive. The city and the architecture and planning firm BNIM recently received an Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects for their Main Street streetscape project.

The project was born from the city’s Sustainable Comprehensive Plan, a document that the community began writing a few months after the tornado hit. The Main Street project is one of the elements of the plan to come to fruition. It’s being touted as the “greenest Main Street in the United States.”

The four-block stretch was remade with the dual goals of being walkable and capable of handling large storms. With 27 infiltration basins, 4 rain gardens, and 8 underground stormwater cisterns, downtown Greensburg is now able to collect and recycle the stormwater that used to have nowhere else to go but the roads. The street was also significantly narrowed to create a more pleasant walking experience.

The $5.3 million project is just one part of the city’s redevelopment and it encompasses just 4 blocks, but it represents a major change in the built form of the city and a solid sign of its continued recovery.

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.