Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Are we repeating postwar errors in urban renewal?

This is a first of a series of articles based upon "A City Transformed; Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1940 – 1980" by Franklin & Marshall historian David Schuyler.

In referring to effect of the Housing Act of 1949, Schuyler quotes Judith Martin and Antony Goddard as observing , in reference to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, "Urban renewal made a vast pool of [federal]resources available to cities but left decisions about where and how to spend the money primarily to local officials' discretion."

Schuyler then states "In Lancaster, the decisions made by local agencies compromised most urban renewal programs, especially residential projects. The combination of a massive infusion of federal and state dollars and generally ineffectual local governments had disastrous consequences."

In our current times with federal, state and local governments providing or guaranteeing over 90% of the required funds for the Convention Center / Hotel Project and the Street Car Project, do we not have history repeating itself?

Rather than focusing on factual information and what is best for the future of Lancaster, the sponsors / prime movers concentrate on how to utilize and, in some cases, profit from the use of governmental generated funding. Feasibility reports are banned and, when others provide them, repudiated and ignored.

The approach: Accomplish the project by hook or by crook, and what happens afterwards will be the public's problem.