Ten Planning Lessons from Bisbee, AZ

Bisbee’s Peace Wall

Current and former mining towns (as well as all declining post-industrial cities) can learn valuable lessons from Bisbee on how to survive and later begin to reverse the decline after its founding industry falters.

Architectural gems from previous eras are meant to be preserved and repurposed, not demolished. Bisbee has done a marvelous job of maintaining its many historic treasures.

Copper Queen Hotel

Narrow, winding, and hilly streets work wonders for traffic calming.

The ongoing repurposing of Bisbee is one the most inspiring planning efforts and achievements this retired planner has observed.

Bisbee should be a remote classroom or a field lab for planning schools nationwide.

There is a distinct dichotomy in Bisbee derived from its unique mix of nature, mining, industry, architecture, art, decay, hope, and steadfast determination.

A community does not have to be easy to reach to draw newcomers, but it must have a palpable heart and soul. Bisbee is blessed with both.

A heavy mining/industrial legacy too often leave long-lasting aftereffects that subsequent generations must contend with to assure a positive future.

It should be the responsibility of those entities and individuals who profited from mining to attend to the mess they created when their work is done…or better yet, prevent/limit the negative environmental impacts in the first place.

While underground mining honeycombs the earth beneath the surface, open pit mining scars the terrain permanently. Planners should work with industry representatives and non-profits to devise safe and sustainable methods for softening the aftereffects of such mining, whether it be through landscaping, replantings, streetscaping, interpretive programming, or other innovative ideas.

Lavender Pit Mine south of Bisbee.
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