Digital Commonwealth

Lawrence, Mass. Before Urban Renewal Photograph Collection

Lawrence Public Library

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Urban renewal may be characterized as a process of conserving, rehabilitating, or clearing and reconstructing parts of a city to preserve or modernize the physical environment or to adapt districts to entirely new purposes or uses. This process was made necessary by the continued disintegration of American cities. After the Second World War the country recognized the socioeconomic costs of the slums and blighted areas in the nation’s cities. Urban renewal was seen as a way of creating economic benefits from new development.

The first area targeted in Lawrence was 35 acres north of the Merrimack River between Lawrence Street and Broadway, Common, and Bradford Streets. The project was called Common, Valley, and Concord Streets Urban Renewal Project. Census data showed that the area was predominately substandard housing. Since the blocks were so near the main shopping district, the city government felt that there were attractive reuse possibilities. The Lawrence Housing Authority, consisting of five appointed members, (William A. Troye, chairman; Louis N. Fournier, vice chairman; Fred J. Watts, treasurer; John A. Callahan, and Felix L O’Neill), was responsible for making decisions. Anthony’s Studios (Anthony Ciofolo) was hired in 1959 to take a series of photographs of the targeted area before any demolition.

The land was acquired and demolition began. The cleared land was made available to developers for a wide range of uses--retail stores, offices, general commercial uses, laboratories, and hotels as well as well as garden or high-rise apartments. The developers were invited to submit proposals for the development of parcels in the project site. The remaining 21 acres were put up for bid in the mid-1960s. There were a number of later projects through the 1960s and 1970s.

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