Urban Renewal in Retrospect
Urban Renewal transformed Lancaster. It resulted in the demolition of 926 buildings, necessitating the relocation of almost 1100 families, 350 individuals, and 171 businesses. It was responsible for rehabilitating almost 1600 structures, most of them residential, and for erecting 710 new housing units. Governmental funding for the various projects totaled roughly $37,100,000 (at a net cost, after sale of land to developers, of $28,700,000), two-thirds of which came from Washington. Private-sector investment has been estimated at $30,000,000, but it has proven impossible to verify that figure.
Numbers are only part of the story. Urban renewal was a wrenching experience for the city and its people. Charles K. Patterson, then director of the Redevelopment Authority, recounted in 1980 how the program worked: in the initial stages, federal officials "told us to totally replan the area. Don't do it piecemeal, they said. Don't put a band-aid on it. Perform major surgery."
There is no doubt that some demolition was essential. The radical surgery undertaken, however, rent the fabric of community and the lives of thousands of residents. Its costs--human as well as financial--outraged some citizens, and the destruction of so many buildings provided an impetus toward the preservation of the physical fabric of community, the history reflected in the buildings erected over centuries. This exhibition is a reminder of the importance of the humanly created environment, and its fragility, as the arena for human interaction and public culture.