Urban renewal promised rejuvenation of cities—cites that were
increasingly losing inhabitants to the perceived security and safety of the
suburbs. In its purest form, it was designed to sustain and support a metropolis,
helping reduce the exodus of inhabitants in the population battle with the
suburbs. In reality, it has been used as a tool for gentrification, a source of blind
federal funding, and slum clearance. The urban renewal plans of the 20th century
promised a rejuvenated city, but in essence destroyed communities and missed
the populationsʼ needs and desires; the plans had the opposite effect and past
urban renewal projects are being redesigned and rebuilt today. The failure of the
20th century renewal projects are explored and applied by studying Southwest
Urban renewal projects of the 20th century promised the
replacement of a section of a city—a locale, district, or neighborhood that was no
longer deemed adequate—such as tenement housing, alley dwellings, or
obsolete public buildings. The alternative designs or reuses of the city section
were thought to be renewed, recharged, and modernized post redevelopment.
City planners attempted, through the displacement of individuals, businesses,
and communities, to reenergize cities and compete with suburban life. However,
many of these new designs were not sensitive to regional issues and focused
heavily on centralized planning without thought for long-term consequences or
sustainability. In most instances the natural rhythms of the streetscapes were
displaced and destroyed. The Southwest Waterfront redevelopment destroyed
5,700 structures in the 1950s and must be revamped for todayʼs needs.
Through documented industry standard texts, interviews with urban
planners, planning commissioners, population data sources, and site travel, the
new, old, and alternative plans of development are investigated for their
longevity, success, and use of existing and rejuvenated neighborhoods. A major
focus on the importance of streetscapes and mixed-use properties is discussed.
The results attempt to show that a well-planned and executed urban
renewal project, integrating multi-use facilities and a corresponding streetscape,
can be successful and sustainable.
The factors of past and future developments in Southwest Washington,
D.C. are studied, critiqued, and compared to one another as well as to other
planning philosophies. It is theoretically shown that a well-planned urban design,
one that understands and anticipates the needs of current and future diverse
populations, could be successful. Site analyses and literature research result in
a conclusion of what defines a sustainable and successful urban renewal project
in Southwest Washington, D.C.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Masters of Arts
Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, D.C.)
Masters Theses from the Corcoran College of Art + Design
The Corcoran College of Art + Design has non-exclusive publication rights. Permission is granted to quote from the thesis with the customary acknowledgement of the source. Copyright for each article is retained by the author. Republication in any form requires permission from the author of the thesis.