Urban Renewal and the Story of Berman v. Parker
Posted: 23 Nov 2009
The Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Berman v. Parker serves as the foundation for much of our modern eminent domain jurisprudence, including the controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London. But the story behind the case starts well before 1954, and it carries implications that are relevant today. It’s a story that played out in many cities across the nation, just as it did in Washington, D.C., where the case took place. It’s the story of urban decay and urban renewal.
This working paper covers the history of redevelopment in Southwest Washington, from the turn of the century to today. It discusses the City Beautiful movement and progressive housing reform in Washington, the rise of public housing and slum clearance policies, the urban renewal planning process as it played out in Southwest D.C., and the demise of urban renewal as a federal policy in the wake of its failures. The conclusion points out while we may approach contemporary economic development projects differently than we approached urban renewal in the 50s and 60s, much can still be learned from the story behind this landmark case.
Keywords: urban renewal, economic development, Berman v. Parker, slum clearance
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