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Saturday, November 11, 2006

"Urban Renewal's Final Implosion"

Here is an article about New Haven's "Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which for the past three decades has occupied -- some say blighted -- a downtown block of this oft-maligned city, [and which] is expected to be demolished next month."

The coliseum's destruction will be a depressing coda for Urban Renewal, the controversial nationwide movement that reshaped dozens of American cities from the late 1940s through the 1970s, claiming large swaths of rundown neighborhoods for huge government public works projects. Its foremost laboratory was New Haven, where officials spent $745 per resident on urban renewal projects from the 1940s through the late '60s, more than twice as much as the next most ambitious city (Newark, $277). The coliseum was the showpiece.

Urban renewal spread quickly after a 1949 housing act authorized and partly funded the taking of private land by eminent domain. Flush with federal money, states and cities rushed to adopt the model perfected by Robert Moses, a mid-20th-century power broker responsible for most of New York City's modern infrastructure of bridges and tunnels, parkways and highways. His imitators around the country seized entire neighborhoods, bulldozed them flat, and constructed new roads and grandiose civic buildings.

I'm sure my thinking on these matters is shaped (or distorted) by my reading of, and admiration for, Jane Jacobs.  But, much of the "urban renewal" discussed in the piece, and for which Moses and his ilk were responsible, seems -- hindsight being 20-20, perhaps -- disastrously misguided.  What are the lessons for today's urban planners, particularly the "urbanists" and neo-traditionalists?

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 11, 2006 at 10:41 AM in Property | Permalink


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