Urban Renewal

Local policies and strategies designed to deal with urban decline, decay or transformation are termed as urban renewal. It is a comprehensive and integrated vision and action which leads to the resolution of urban problems and which seeks to bring about a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, social and environmental conditions of an area that has been subject to change. With the decision and authority of a governing municipality, rearranging land use, function and ownership features of a socially, economically or structurally decayed part of a certain city such as slum zones or brown fields, for the purpose of obtaining a desired, well organized neighbourhood. 

Urban renewal or urban regeneration is a process of land redevelopment in areas of prior, moderately to high, dense urban land use. It has a mammoth impact on the urban panorama and morphology of different cities. On the other side, the urban redevelopment process is envisioned as a way to redevelop or rebuilt urban zones and it also incorporates sewerage treatment and disposal, solid waste management, building and maintenance of roads, streets and flyovers, creation of parks and open spaces, street lighting along with street cleanliness, conservation and remodeling of heritage sites, water purification and supply etc. all of which ultimately lead to a healthy renewal project in urban areas. So renewal is an all-round process that encompasses mainly redevelopment and also some other specific planning strategies within its spectrum. 

Urban renewal refers to a set of plans and activities to upgrade neighborhoods and suburbs that are in state of distress or decay. Urban renewal programs address the physical aspects of urban decay. Urban problems such as deteriorating housing, poor physical infrastructure (including water and sanitation services) and poor community services such as sports and recreational amenities are addressed through such programs. 

Urban renewal (also called urban regeneration in the United Kingdom and urban redevelopment in the United States ) is a program of land redevelopment often used to address urban decay in cities. Urban renewal is the clearing out of blighted areas in inner cities to clear out slums and create opportunities for higher class housing, businesses and more. A primary purpose of urban renewal is to restore economic viability to a given area by attracting external private and public investment and by encouraging business startups and survival. 

Modern attempts at renewal began in the late 19th century in developed nations, and experienced an intense phase in the late 1940s under the rubric of reconstruction. The process has had a major impact on many urban landscapes and has played an important role in the history and demographics of cities around the world. Urban renewal is a process where privately owned properties within a designated renewal area are purchased or taken by eminent domain by a municipal redevelopment authority, razed and then reconveyed to selected developers who devote them to other uses.

The concept of urban renewal as a method for social reform emerged in England as a reaction to the increasingly cramped and unsanitary conditions of the urban poor in the rapidly industrializing cities of the 19th century. The agenda that emerged was a progressive doctrine that assumed better housing conditions would reform its residents morally and economically. This process is also carried out in rural areas, referred to as village renewal, though it may not be exactly the same in practice. In some cases, renewal may result in urban sprawl when city infrastructure begins to include freeways and expressways. Urban renewal has been seen by proponents as an economic engine and a reform mechanism and by critics as a mechanism for control. Though it may bring more wealth to communities, it may also edge out its preexisting residents.

Objectives of Urban Renewal 

The main objectives of urban renewal are 

  • Restructuring and re planning of concerned urban areas 
  • Designing more effective and environment friendly local transport and road networks within the concerned urban areas
  • Rationalizing land uses within the concerned urban areas 
  • Redeveloping dilapidated buildings into new buildings of modern standard and environment friendly design 
  • Promoting sustainable development in the urban areas 
  • Promoting the timely maintenance and rehabilitation of buildings in need of repair 
  • Preserving buildings, sites and structures of historical, cultural or architectural value 
  • Preserving as far as practicable local characteristics 
  • Preserving as far as practicable the social networks of the local community 
  • Providing purpose-built housing for groups with special needs, such as the elderly and the disabled 
  • Providing more open space and community/welfare facilities 
  • Enhancing the townscape with attractive landscape and urban design 

Reasons behind Urban Renewal 

Urban Renewal allows an absolute city to modernize itself so that it can compete successfully with other cities of a similar hierarchical size for major economic and cultural activities. Various reasons behind urban renewal are as follows. 

a) Economic Reasons 

In Central areas, it alters low revenue property to high value property that yields higher tax revenue to the municipality. In conservation, it maintains the properties from declining. The cost of maintenance becomes less. Private developers are given adequate incentives to extend business and it provides more employment in commercial and institutional activities. Urban renewal project can repay the loan for investment within a few years. It provides employment opportunities and helps construction related activities. The relocated people and business also get economic benefits and blessings. 

b) Social Reasons 

It provides housing to the poor people and thus dilapidated housings and unhealthy, shady as well as shabby environmental ambience get eliminated through this type of projects. Juvenile delinquency, prostitution, anti-social elements and other social pathological symptoms are also removed or eradicated to some extent by the aura of this type of reformations.

c) Public Improvement Reasons 

Traffic improvements and parking facilities, disappearance of illegal and unauthorized usage of public space, provision of adequate community facilities including interward and intraward municipal services can be provided over a wider urban pursuit after the occurrence of a holistic urban renewal programme. 

d) Aesthetic Reasons 

Changing cityscapes with better or improved residential areas are generated due to renewal where all sorts of urban-ugliness can be removed. 

The purpose of urban renewal is to improve specific areas of a city that are poorly developed or underdeveloped. These areas can have old deteriorated buildings and bad streets and utilities or the areas can lack streets and utilities altogether. 

The National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) has committed itself to a comprehensive programme of urban renewal and massive expansion of social housing especially in Kolkata city. In his inaugural address of a National-level programme, held on 24th June, 2004, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasized on the need to give special attention to policies promoting urban renewal through urban regeneration, renovation and redevelopment. In the Independence Day address of 2008, he uttered, “Urban renewal constitutes one of the seven pillars for urban growth and development in different metropolitan cities of India”. At the beginning of 21st century, renewal resulted in the creation of urban sprawl also and huge areas of cities were demolished and replaced by fairways and expressways, sky-touching housing projects and vacant lots, some of which (though minor portions) still remain vacant. 

Urban renewal provides the following tools. 

  • First it allows for the use of tax increment financing to finance improvement projects. 
  • Second, it allows for special powers to buy and assemble sites for development or redevelopment, if that is desired. 
  • Third, it allows for special flexibility in working with private parties to complete development projects. 

Urban Renewal Agency 

For a municipality to use urban renewal it must establish an urban renewal agency and it must adopt an urban renewal plan. Urban renewal agencies are created by state law but are specifically “activated’” by the governing body. The agencies are separate legal bodies from the governing body, but in most cases the urban renewal agency board is composed of members of the governing body. 

Urban Renewal Plans 

To undertake urban renewal projects with tax increment financing, the projects must be authorized in an urban renewal plan. The plan applies to a specific geographic area of the city, which is called the urban renewal area. 

The term Urban renewal means rebirth or regeneration of a city or a part of it which has been plagued by the ills of urbanization. The planning concept originated in England and America in 1930’s. Decayed parts of the city were demolished and rebuilt. Initially referred to slum clearance and housing but has gradually evolved into a multidimensional concept. These programs were thrust upon the city and its people and were criticized and halted on opposition by organized community movements. The urban renewal programs taken up later, involved greater participation of the communities.

Urban Renewal programs are generally undertaken by public authorities or by local governments. The emphasis is on those parts which have fallen below current standards of public acceptability. These are commonly to be found in the residential parts of the inner city and the central business district. Indicators for residential parts of inner cities are inadequate housing, environmental degradation and presence of non-conforming uses. Indicators for central business district are traffic problems, congestion and dilapidated buildings. 

Urban renewal is required for 
  • Dilapidating, ageing parts of the city, not providing the city its full potential and becoming a health hazard 
  • In built form it consists of old area of the city, congested area around transit points and illegal settlements needing redevelopment 
  • In terms of infrastructure - measures for efficient and smooth movement of traffic, improvement of transportation network and provision /improvement of utilities



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