Downtown Frankenstein! Rewind to Blight

April 3, 2007 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Last Episode? Cars. This one? Blight. Negroes. Civil Rights Violence. Racist Swine. Clever Engineers.In the sad and sadly predictable saga of how Jacksonville built a great swinging city by the river only to dynamite it back into the stone age and salt the earth to prevent any business community from ever growing back in its center, we have discussed how important it is to understand the mindset of the people that led to the outright decimation of the city center.

After all, there must have been some sort of reasoning.....People don't just dynamite everything in sight with no projected outcome in mind.

The last installment discussed the problems posed to Jacksonville by the arrival of the car:

The condensed version:

1. The streets weren't originally designed with cars in mind.... so while they were wide enough to accommodate trolleys and pedestrians, they weren't wide enough to accommodate all three---given the choice, we junked the Trolleys and street cars and replaced them with two lanes of traffic and room for parallel parking.

2. No one ever anticipated the problems of parking in the pre-car world when they were building the city.  All the blocks of the city grid were built out with buildings on them, leaving no place to store all the unused cars without tearing down an existing business.

Instead of having more space, we decided to limit the amount of time any one car could be stored and installed parking meters and heavy fines for 'overtime' parking.  Eventually this became such a net negative that shops and stores began having greater success in the neighborhoods outside of the control zone.

Enter the Haydon Burns administration and the advent of the idea of 'Blight'.

We hear often about 'blighted' neighborhoods.

Urban Blight is a catchy byword which in the present day means 'run down', 'badly repaired', and 'abandoned'.

But let us consider for a moment that the meaning and context of this word has changed over the past 40 years.

For example, the idea that the inner city was 'blighted' goes back a long way.  A  really surprisingly long way back.

Most people remember that the Haydon Burns administration was a period of modernization and growth.  Much of our civic architecture dates to this period of time and the dynamic vision of the seemingly permanent mayor of Old Jacksonville.

What people do not remember, however, is that the build out was seen as a redevelopment of a 'blighted' downtown.

What was the 'blight' you might reasonably ponder?

The Wharves of course.

And apparently, Negroes.

Let us begin with the less controversial of the two perceived blights.

 1 2 3 NEXT