Sunday, January 23, 2011
Urban Renewal Redux
Early aerial photographs of Hudson show that once upon a time the Second Ward looked pretty much the same as the First Ward. The grid pattern of the streets was regular. Houses and buildings stood on 26-foot wide lots with a relationship to the street that is identical to that which still exists in the First Ward. A walking tour guide, written by Ruth Piwonka, to accompany a book signing celebrating the publication of Bruce Hall's book Diamond Street in 1994, suggested that, already in the 19th century, the south side of town was considered marginally more affluent than the north side. It would seem that the economic gap between the neighborhoods on either side of Warren Street--below Third Street at least--had widened by the 1970s, because when the city fathers decided to eliminate what was allegedly the "worst housing stock in the state," they targeted the Second Ward.
What happened forty years ago during Urban Renewal had an enormous, community-altering impact not only on the neighborhoods of the Second Ward but also on the city as a whole. Today Hudson still deals with the consequences of the decisions made by the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency in the late '60s and early '70s--decisions that concentrated low-income housing in one area of the city and rendered the revitalization that has taken place in the First Ward and elsewhere impossible by destroying much of the historic architecture that has been the engine of Hudson's revitalization. Although the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency seemed not to foresee the long-term effects of their plans, they did make an effort to keep the community informed while these very radical changes were being proposed. The History Room at the Hudson Area Library has a number of brochures published by the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency and newspaper articles touting the benefits to the city of the demolition and redevelopment project--including the anticipated benefits, through PILOTs, to the tax base.