urban renewal

Letting Cities Bloom As They Were Planted

Every human being has coding that makes an individual unique. Deoxyribonucleic acid contains all the physical information about each individual, and everyone has a unique pattern. While the United States was developing, each major city had a unique design — landmarks, architecture, local businesses — that attracted people. When labor was more physical, either in manufacturing or before internet service, populations would migrate all over the country. While segregation birthed cultural enclaves in different areas, immigrants and newcomers continued to respect those boundaries even as they became integrated.
Now, however, there is a push for urban revitalization that threatens to wipe out the distinct appearance of all major cities, and encroaches upon smaller towns as well. When inequity is rampant, and people are no longer able to support their communities through local commerce, cities continue to duplicate efforts and end up becoming identical in nature. If people of means have specific desires that diverge from local interests, communities become flooded with franchises and more capital is needed to create those local small enterprises. When larger companies decide that they are enticed by major cities, local employers struggle to retain their talent based on brand familiarity.
Saddest of all, when people decide that historic architecture is no longer trendy enough, all of that architecture is destroyed. It is ironic that while people are enthralled by the idea of “urban living,” most of the citizens who remained in those communities and strained to sustain them are being displaced. Row houses, warehouses, tenement buildings and town centers are all being “discovered” by people who were wealthy enough to flee with their resources during the sixties and seventies, and are now forcing out marginalized people who did their level best to keep those areas alive. The styles of such designs are being emulated by developers who aided in suburban sprawl after seeing “no incentive” to retain any edifice already in existence.
Preservation has been appropriated by groups intent on maintaining racial and socioeconomic segregation, but the public is not required to give them the last word. Reuse has become more attractive recently, and the first developers who make it profitable to restore buildings instead of building from scratch will do two things. One, and to them most importantly, they will become rich because all cities have historic areas. Secondly, they will curb the tide of displacement by making it affordable for people to retrofit existing housing instead of constantly scraping lots. It is possible to respectfully preserve communities, but it will take political will by those with the resources to do so.

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