Revisiting the Era of Urban Renewal in Our Own Time of Unaffordable Housing and Emptying Downtowns

Urban Renewal in this telling is not the one huge disaster of popular lore, but a much more complex, evolutionary response to American cities in crisis.

Lecture Description

As the nation copes with urban challenges ranging from unaffordable housing and increasingly empty downtowns, there are important insights to be gained from revisiting the urban renewal strategies as they evolved from the 1940s to the 1970s as part of the effort to combat the exit of residents, retail, and capital with mass suburbanization. A deep dive into the career of an urban redeveloper like Edward J. Logue, who worked in New Haven, Boston, and New York State from the 1950s to 2000, and the shifting strategies he employed at different times, reveals urban renewal as a process that was not at all static. Rather, it continued to change over time, to experiment with different approaches in response to its own, often admitted failures as well as changing national policies and politics, and to implement some surprisingly progressive ideas. This lecture will argue that, in dismissing all efforts at urban redevelopment as disastrous urban renewal, we have missed how policy and strategies changed over time, the impact of the federal government’s investment in subsidized housing, and how, faced with poor urban renewal approaches, communities rallied to demand greater responsiveness from cities, states, and Washington and a larger voice in decision-making.


Post-1945 Urban and Suburban

ALL TOPICS & TITLES: Go back to all topics and titles.

More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources