Being in San Francisco for the Society for Risk Analysis in early December of 2012, having not been there since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 (yes, I was actually IN the earthquake) gave me a realization that natural disasters can have a silver lining in terms of the footprint of cities. I was staying at the Hyatt one block away from the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. In 1989, this was an elevated freeway which, like all too many cities (including my current venue of Philadelphia) served as a physical obstacle between people and the waterfront. As nicely documented in Roughly Drafted, the quake demolished the freeway and tipped the balance in favor of those who wanted it gone in the first place.
Years later, the freeway is gone, there is a nice linear walkway in San Fran, and the Ferry Building itself has been transformed into a gourmet mecca (Ferry Building Marketplace)
image from wikipedia – GNU License
Other cities have had major disasters turn into positive planning and development opportunities. The Great Chicago Fire in 1871 (Wikipedia) destroyed much of the city. However, its aftermath provided the opportunity to develop the unique lakefront park belt that we know today (http://www.cityofchicago.org/dam/city/depts/cdot/ShorelineHistory.pdf).
Are there other examples of spinoff benefits that have occurred in other cities?
What lessons can we learn from this in the reconstruction of shoreline following Superstorm Sandy?