Rachael Doud

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Looking forward to New Haven’s future, we are faced with the question of what role the city should take in redevelopment. John Elwood looked for insight into that question in his 1994 article Rethinking Government Participation in Urban Renewal: Neighborhood Revitalization in New Haven. He examined two redevelopment projects: the Ninth Square and Upper State Street. While the former was achieved in a Lee-esque manner, with significant government funding and involvement, the latter was initiated and carried out largely by small property owners, although the government did provide incentives and assistance.

Elwood characterizes the Ninth Square project as “coarse-grained,” based on the fact that the entire area was developed according to a master plan, and Upper State Street, which redeveloped building by building, as “fine-grained.” Elwood argues that the government-driven, coarse-grained approach is in various ways inferior to the more spontaneous fine-grained approach. Specifically, Elwood notes that Upper State Street-type development is faster and lessens the government’s financial burden.

In this article, I embark on a similar comparison, focusing on the Ninth Square and what I will call the “Crown Street District.” The Ninth Square occupies a four-square-block area between Chapel and George Streets and Church and State Streets. The Crown Street District is much less clearly demarcated but encompasses a variety of commercial establishments along Crown Street and its cross streets, between High Street and Church Street. While Elwood focuses on the costs of the development process itself, I focus more on the question of ultimate success. I ask whether New Haven has succeeded in revitalizing the Ninth Square, and to what extent revitalization can be accomplished without such government involvement.

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