Boston's New Mayor Wants to End Old Urban Renewal Districts

Michelle Wu, Boston's new mayor, is ready to finally end the government powers that displaced communities in the mid-20th century.

1 minute read

March 15, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A historoci image of West End Boston, cleared completely of buildings to make way for a massive urban renewal program that would include the city's present-day City Hall.

The West End urban renewal project area in Boston, circa 1959-1964. | Urban Redevelopment Division, Boston Housing Authority / Wikimedia Commons

In February, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu asked the City Council to end five of the city’s 14 active urban renewal plan areas, "with the goal of winding down all of the plans by the end of this year," reports Catherine Carlock for the Boston Globe.

"A powerful urban development tool granted to the then-Boston Redevelopment Authority in the late 1950s, urban renewal has been the city’s primary mechanism to take so-called 'blighted' property by eminent domain, and was key to the wholesale razing of the West End, Scollay Square, and parts of the South End and Roxbury in the 1950s and ′60s," explains Carlock.

Mayor Wu wrote a letter to the City Council explaining the rationale behind the request to end the city's urban renewal districts—connecting the contemporary urban renewal districts to their history as tools of displacement through "slum clearance" and other methods of a previous era of planning. "My administration is committed to putting equity at the forefront of planning and development decisions and the sunsetting of urban renewal in Boston should be viewed through this lens," wrote Wu in the letter.

As noted by Carlock, Wu campaigned on the issue of sunsetting the city's urban renewal districts, along with other larger structural reforms for the Boston Planning and Development Agency, so stay tuned for more reform developments.

Monday, February 28, 2022 in The Boston Globe

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