SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is kicking off its 40th Anniversary celebration by hosting the presentation “Origins of Preservation: Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs 1962-1986” 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
Join Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs County Supervisor and Treasurer of the Foundation, as he explores the often controversial Urban Renewal Program and the origins of preservation in Saratoga Springs. This presentation will feature rarely scene photographs from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s of the areas impacted by the Urban Renewal Program.
Urban Renewal provided federal funding for cities to cover costs of acquiring slum areas to demolish dilapidated buildings, consolidate the vacant lots, and then sell those lots to developers to create new “modern” residential and commercial buildings. When the Urban Renewal Program was approved in 1961 the city was facing an economic decline following the changes in tourism, the loss of the grand hotels, and gambling being illegal resulting in disinvestment in the existing building stock. In 1962, the Urban Renewal Agency was formed to eliminate slums and blight, expand and strengthen the central business district, establish a central residential area, expand the tax base, provide off-street parking, and improve infrastructure and traffic patterns.
Lasting from 1962 through 1986, the Urban Renewal Program resulted in the city’s largest urban change in its history. It cleared the way for large development projects, such as the City Center and the Public Library which continue to provide tremendous benefit to the community. It also resulted in affordable housing projects and low-income housing as well as parking areas on Woodlawn Avenue and High Rock Avenue. While the demolition of many historic buildings was unfortunate, it did result in an increased awareness about the need to preserve our community’s architecture. Additionally, many feel the program ruined the very fabric of the community by displacing a large African-American community from the west side of Broadway. “Today we are still affected by the Urban Renewal decisions that were made, some of which continue to benefit the city today while others still remain to be completed and the benefits have yet to be realized,” said Samantha Bosshart, the Foundation’s Executive Director.