For decades, poverty has poured through the halls of America’s poorest citizens housed in crime-ridden, severely distressed public housing developments across the nation. St. Louis was one of the first municipalities to reverse the trend of urban construction, demolishing its infamous Pruitt-Igoe development in the 1970s. But it was not until the late 1980s that other urban centers seriously considered a large-scale urban renewal program.
To evaluate and ultimately revitalize these urban monoliths, Congress established the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing in 1989. Three years later, the commission offered its prognosis spawning the HOPE VI (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) program, which proposed the demolition, modernization and redevelopment of more than 80,000 public housing units around the nation.
As a result, the 1990s saw several major cities demolish their dilapidated and dangerous housing developments. As the trend continues today, NewsOne’s Prison and Projects series examines some of the major cities who have embarked in these revitalization efforts and the many infamous developments that have gone extinct in the process.
Long considered the nations worst public housing authority, Chicago’s plans to eradicate its decrepit high-rise buildings were highlighted by the demolition of two of the nation’s most storied public housing developments. In 1996, the city began the demolition of the famed Cabrini Green housing projects after years of high crime conditions. Infamously known as the city’s most notorious housing project, at its peak, Cabrini Green housed more than 15,000 people.
One year later, the demolition began at the Robert Taylor homes. Composed of 24 16-story high-rises and a total of 4,415 units, the Robert Taylor Homes were once home to Mr. T, athletes Kirby Puckett and Maurice Cheeks, and the current governor of the state Massachusetts Deval Patrick. During its time, the Robert Taylor homes housed some of the poorest residents in the country.
Before you move on to our list, check out our Prisons and Projects series here.
Baltimore began leveling many of its public housing projects after housing authority officials blamed years of high-crime on an aging housing stock, and cutbacks in funding from the federal government. In 1995, the city threw a parade when it demolished 6 structures in one day.
A 2007 Baltimore Citistat examination reported that the city, in a special arrangement with HUD, got to keep operating subsidies for every public housing unit it abandoned or demolished since 2005. In 2007, Baltimore received $4 million for 3,201 homes that were demolished. As of 2010, the city leveled 21 of its public housing projects. Somerset Court, which first opened in 1943, was demolished after the development succumbed to the scourge of drugs.
Takser Housing Projects, Philadelphia PA
The Philadelphia Housing Authority is the 4th largest in the nation, and the largest landlord in the state of Pennsylvania. In 2004, the city demolished the Tasker Housing projects — a high-density, low-income housing development that once housed 1100 units. Located in the city’s Grays Ferry neighborhood, the Tasker homes, like many public housing projects around the nation, faced a healthy serving of urban blight and crime.
Magnolia Projects, New Orleans LA
In 2007, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 to demolish several of its infamous public housing plots, including the C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, Lafitte and St. Bernard developments, all of which were severely damaged after Hurricane Katrina.
Of those closed, the C.J. Peete housing development, more commonly known for its original name, the Magnolia Projects, were located in a part of Uptown New Orleans known as Central City. Rife with all the urban blight consistent with many poor areas and public housing developments, Magnolia’s murder rate consistently ranks the highest of all the city’s public housing developments, a startling fact considering that New Orleans itself frequently has one of the highest murder rates in the nation.
Techwood Homes, Atlanta GA
For decades, social commentators have called Atlanta’s impoverished public housing projects incubators for crime. Around the time the city began its revitalization efforts by demolishing its many subsidized residences, it was reported that one in five reported violent crimes in Atlanta took place in public housing projects.
Created to eliminate slum-like conditions and house many of the city’s poor residents, Atlanta’s Techwood Homes were the first and oldest housing project built in the U.S., opening in 1936. By the 90s, the violent crime rate at the Techwood Homes stood at 37 times the national average. As a result of Hope VI efforts, the homes were demolished prior to the 1996 Olympic games.
Prospect Plaza, Brooklyn NY
New York City has been one of the slowest municipalities to demolish its public housing projects. Citywide there are 337 developments with more than 178,000 apartments. And yet, the New York City Housing Authority has demolished only one high-rise structure in its 75 year history when in 2005 it tore down one of the four towers that made up Prospect Plaza, a 12- to 15-story development in Brownsville, Brooklyn to make way for a new community center, shops and additional housing. In 2010, the city announced its plan to demolish the remaining three structures that comprised Prospect Plaza.