Resilient and determined. That was the incredible spirit I found among residents, during my brief visit to Greensburg, during 2009. Here is my original post, with a few tweaks/updates:
I arrived in Greensburg on a September day of brilliant blue skies and strong wind. I marveled that an F-5 tornado had destroyed 95 percent of the town two years earlier. From the moment I arrived, the residents' hope, and determination to rebuild with a new focus was palpable. New construction had begun all along the town's main street, where nature had decimated most
downtown buildings. A lone structure from 1915 remained from the original landscape.
Much of Greensburg's re-building has had a 'green' focus. During my visit, afternoon sunlight glinted across tempered glass on an exterior wall of the nonprofit 5.4.7 Arts Center. True to the eco-friendly focus Greensburg adopted after the tornado, it employs solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling, plus reclaimed wood siding, skylights, and a 'green roof.'
When the town envisioned this building, it enlisted the help of graduate students from what was then the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning's Studio 804 program. By the time the building was completed it had received a challenging, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating.
Another LEED Platinum building, the Sun Chips Business Incubator employs skylights, solar panels, a heat pump, and a graywater system among other environmental features. Small businesses can get themselves established here before venturing out on their own.
At the time of my visit, Studio 54 Glass Art Studio and Gallery offered gift and household decor items here, including paperweights that featured tornado debris and bits of recycled glass…
After Greensburg’s reinvention began, Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way Productions, and Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Media Group and Television filmed GREENSBURG, for Planet Green/the Discovery Channel. The series depicted Greensburg’s ‘green town’ rebirth. During his time in Greensburg, DiCaprio was so impressed with the town’s drive and vision that he donated $400,000 to state and federal emergency funds and corporate money, which would assist in building the $3.4 million business incubator building.
Greensburg residents remain committed to the city’s motto, which emerged from tornado devastation and rebirth - Greensburg: Better, Stronger, Greener. Want to learn more? Check out this 2020 update/story.
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