Time Machine Tuesday: Urban Renewal in Colorado

This is still a timely topic, as HB15-1348 has been passed by the Legislature (it is still awaiting the Governor’s signature).  The bill concerns “modifications to statutory provisions governing urban redevelopment to promote the equitable financial contribution among affected public bodies in connection with urban redevelopment projects allocating tax revenues.”  What is urban renewal?  Urban renewal is the city-initiated redevelopment of urban and high density areas that are considered “blighted,” often using eminent domain and other legal means. 

The practice of urban renewal peaked during the 1960s and ’70s, especially in Denver, where 27 blocks of downtown buildings were demolished in the name of progress.  Initially, the concept had developed to clear out housing slums.  The Legislature passed an urban renewal law in 1958 that allowed a program of public purchase and clearing of land and subsequent re-sale to private developers — an issue that is still being contested today.  A little over a year later a legislative committee studied the effects of urban renewal in other states, its use in Denver and Pueblo, and its potential in Colorado, publishing their findings in a report which you can view online from our library.  The report also includes a copy of the 1958 law and a glossary of urban renewal terms.  At the time of the study, the constitutionality of urban renewal was at issue before the state Supreme Court. Seven years later, the issue went before Denver voters who approved the establishment of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority’s Skyline Urban Renewal project, focusing on clearing the areas of downtown considered to be “skid row.”  The practice of urban renewal has both its critics and its supporters, but either way, the program has been responsible for completely changing the landscape of Denver and other cities where it has been used.