Urban Renewal

Untitled Photograph of Louisville

Untitled Photograph of Louisville, ca. late 1960s – early 1970s. 

“Urban renewal was designed to remove slums and blighted areas … and make better use of urban land to benefit the total community … The demolition and razing of buildings which we did in the past was a necessary phase of renewal.” Urban Renewal and Community Development Agency, Annual Report, 1974.

Urban renewal swept post-War America with the idea that cities could be “modernized” to solve the problem of decaying downtown business districts. Instead of addressing the real reasons for the decline – exodus to the suburbs, zoning and redlining, and use of personal vehicles – many cities used the rallying cry of “urban renewal” to clear and raze old structures to make room for new. A 1955 editorial in the Courier-Journal titled “A Bomb at Fourth and Walnut That Would Bless Louisville” argued that if downtown could be cleared of old buildings to make room for the automobile, Louisville could be a bustling city once again. However, these efforts to revive downtown had the opposite effect. Entire city blocks were demolished to create parking lots. Urban renewal efforts of the 1950s through the 1970s are now seen as an accelerant to downtown Louisville’s decline.