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urban renewal

  Both the process, and the result, of large-scale redevelopment of the built environment in downtown (cf. central business district) and older inner-city neighbourhoods, typically on a massive scale, and undertaken by the state, or more recently in the strategic form of a public-private partnership. The story of urban renewal is usually dated from the 1950s, though the spirit of the process may be seen in earlier huge projects like the Haussmannization of Paris, or the construction of Vienna\'s Ringstrasse, or some of the vast public works of Robert Moses in New York — and that spirit has much to do with the Promethean vision of modernity (cf. Berman, 1982). By the 1950s, conditions were propitious for a sweeping modernization of the urban landscape in Western Europe and North America. Ageing infrastructure and decaying neighbourhoods had seen little improvement in some cities since the 1920s; the post-war boom, the rapid urbanization that accompanied it, the leadership of the emergent welfare state, and in Europe (both east and west) reconstruction following wartime damage, all conspired to sustain a vigorous rebuilding spree. The process was highly centralized and bureaucratized, and in its corporate execution and allegiance to Le Corbusier-style modernism represented a formidable version of municipal Fordism (Ley, 1996).

Its public works were massive, as Berman (1982) noted with pathos in his autobiographical essay on the Cross-Bronx Expressway in New York, or again as Fyfe (1996) has described in his innovative account of renewal in Glasgow. The state\'s deployment of power and authority in the city were remarkable, the power of its categories to shape reality, absolute. Designation of a district as a slum was a forensic diagnosis that led directly (and often in these terms) to the operation of surgical excision. Responses by citizens counted for nothing. This form of state despotism began to be challenged intellectually in the early 1960s, in part as a result of an ethnographic study of urban renewal in Boston\'s West End that revealed the human consequences of forced relocation (Gans, 1962). Simultaneously, Jane Jacobs\' remarkably precise diatribe against modern planning and its dire consequences widened the indictment across the United States (Jacobs, 1961; cf. urban and regional planning).

By the end of the 1960s, government began a fundamental re-assessment of the urban renewal programme in face of a brush fire of citizen opposition and intellectual critique. A strategic withdrawal was sounded, and through the 1970s the softer hand of the state was seen in policies that emphasized not le grand récit of \'slash and build\' renewal, but rather le petit récit of rehabilitation, neighbourhood enrichment, and degrees of local empowerment, including decentralized neighbourhood planning and \'third sector\' housing built and managed by non-profit societies. The move away from renewal was abrupt. In Canada in 1971, the entire federal urban budget was given over to renewal policies; by 1977, 96 per cent of a much larger budget was committed to preservation and enrichment (cf. Smith and Moore, 1993).

The 1980s saw the paling of incrementalism and the return of renewal by another name — private-public partnerships (Frieden and Sagalyn, 1989). Typically these projects have included a generous contribution to urban conviviality as the sugar coating on the pill of massive urban change. A number of cities (for example, Montreal, Knoxville, and Brisbane) have used the spectacle of a world\'s fair, or major sporting event, as the cover for major infrastructure development. Others have employed the softer touch of James Rouse style urban redevelopment perfected in Boston\'s Faneuil Hall-Quincy Market, and Baltimore\'s Inner Harbor, where a festival market in conjunction with leisure venues, preferably in a waterfront setting, can become the symbolic and material anchor of wider private and public redevelopment. In this manner a leisure, or in more refined cases, an arts or cultural strategy (Zukin, 1995), can provide a palatable entrée for contemporary urban renewal. (DL)

References Berman, M. 1982: All that is solid melts into air: the experience of modernity. New York: Simon and Schuster. Frieden, B. and Sagalyn, L. 1989: Downtown Inc.: how America rebuilds cities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Fyfe, N. 1996: Contested visions of a modern city: planning and poetry in Glasgow. Environment and Planning A 28: 387-403. Gans, H. 1962: The urban villagers. New York: Free Press. Jacobs, J. 1961: The death and life of great American cities. New York: Random House. Ley, D. 1996: The new middle class and the remaking of the central city. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Smith, P. and Moore, P. 1993: Cities as a social responsibility: planning and urban form. In L. Bourne and D. Ley, eds, The changing social geography of Canadian cities. Mont real: Mc Gill-Queen\'s University Press, 343-6 6. Zukin, S. 1995: The cultures of cities. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell .



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