Housing and Urban Development

Here’s a view of the Southwest neighborhood in Washington, D.C., in 1949, before government planners came along to Develop it. The buildings are mostly small rowhouses, some of them dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. A lot of the people living there were poor; most of them black folks or European immigrants. There were bustling commercial districts, grocery stores, a lot of little shops, and a movie theater.

It's an aerial view photo of a neighborhood filled with little rows of houses and shops, lots of green space, small roads criss-crossing.

Before.

Here’s a view of the Southwest neighborhood in 1963, after it got Urban Renewed. Every square inch on this map was claimed under eminent domain; this is what the award-winning urban planners and developers did with it.

It's an aerial-view photo of the same neighborhood. Almost every building has been leveled and a giant paved freeway is running through the vacant lots and the handful of buildings.

After.

Wikipedia describes what happened in between the Before and the After as the 1950s rebuilding.

Here’s another photo from 1979, when the highway construction was complete and the government had finished some brutalist office and residential buildings, new office complexes for HUD and the EPA, and some government housing projects. Some of these developments were widely praised; some even won an award.

Thank goodness government is around to develop these neighborhoods for us. Just think of all the blight and unlivable neighborhoods we’d have if they just left it up to the people who live and work in a neighborhood to determine the conditions under which they want to live and work.

(Thanks to BeyondDC.com 2011-01-10.)

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