Urban renewal


In the 1950s, U.S. cities began using federal funding to redevelop “blighted” central city neighborhoods. This process became known as urban renewal. 

The two earliest urban renewal efforts in Portland were the South Auditorium Renewal Project south of downtown, and the Memorial Coliseum in North Portland. Officials from the Portland Planning Commission assessed the two neighborhoods as blighted by dilapidated, substandard or overcrowded housing. They used these ratings to justify razing both neighborhoods.

These were communities, not vacant land. The Memorial Coliseum site, near the east end of the Broadway Bridge, was a low-income residential neighborhood with many African American homes and businesses. The South Auditorium Renewal Project site was also a low-income neighborhood that had historically sheltered immigrants. In the 1950s, nearly a third of its residents were single and over the age of 60.

The Memorial Coliseum and South Auditorium projects had an indelible effect on the city and on residents’ sense of community. Two lively, diverse neighborhoods were entirely removed from the landscape. And the Memorial Coliseum project was just one of several mid-20th century redevelopment schemes which pushed Black residents and businesses to new neighborhoods.  

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