QUOTE(cbellomy @ Apr 11 2007, 10:07 PM)
Oh, I was sure it would have to be something fairly horrible, Kevin, but that's what was so intriguing about it to me... how horrible a thing could he have come up with? It makes me appreciate that they at least had some restraint at the time.
Restraint? I actually rather doubt that had much to do with it. The mindset back at that time was "old is bad new is good" regardless of the nature of the particular old and the new things in question.
My guess the reason it never went through was mostly because of money. Acquiring large blocks of land in downtown is not a cheap proposition and would probably have required much of it to have been confiscated by eminent domain which would have complicated things even further.
I agree, however, that we definitely dodged a bullet there. Imagine the state of downtown Fort Worth today if it consisted mostly of decaying examples of sterile, unfriendly and banal mid-century modernism. I promise it would not be a destination for tourists or suburbanites and it certainly would not be a trendy place for people to live.
Fort Worth, by the way, was far from being the only city to have a Gruen plan. When he was not designing shopping malls, the man, it seems, was everywhere drawing up plans to destroy.....er, I mean, "revitalize"....downtowns.
Portland had a plan that sounds very similar to the one proposed for Fort Worth. Fortunately for that city, nothing became of it either. At this link
is the following description of Portland's Gruen plan:
Gruen's plan for Portland - titled Patterns for Progress - was pretty grim. Among other mad schemes, Gruen's firm envisioned a ring road around downtown, tunnels under Monument Square, a pedestrian mall along Congress Street, an orgy of demolition, and plenty of parking garages.
Then there was the civic center. Gruen and his minions actually wanted to plop a gigantic civic/convention center right on top of the blocks bounded by State, Congress, High, and Cumberland (and bisected by Deering). Not everything on that site would have been paved over - The State Theater and the Portlander Motor Hotel (today's USM dorm) would have been integrated into the complex, and the Baptist Church on the corner of High and Deering would have been allowed to stand as well. Everything else in this huge tract of land, however, would have been S.O.L.
Unfortunately, Lancaster Pennsylvania was not as fortunate as was Portland and Fort Worth. At this link
are the drawings for what Gruen did to that city. This link
shows the destruction that made way for it - be warned, the images at the other end of the link are not very pleasant to look at. The project - quite predictably - was an utter failure. It did not revitalize downtown Lancaster and much of the new office and commercial space remained vacant for a long time. In recent years, they ended up having to come up with a "master plan" on how to revitalize the project which was supposed to "revitalize" Lancaster. You can find a link to a .pdf file of the plan here
"Urban renewal" did to American cities what the bombs of World War II did to the cities of Europe. Fortunately, there was not a similar loss in life. But the physical scars and blemishes look pretty much the same. Fort Worth definitely escaped something. Of course, we had the convention center and the destruction of many very nice buildings in Hell's Half Acre - and that was bad enough.
All of this makes me wonder something: has there ever
been an instance here in the USA of a big city downtown that had gone into decline and was successfully revived in a way that was not
heavily based around the preservation and rehabilitation of its pre-World War II buildings? Has there been a downtown that was successfully revived based on the construction of 1950s - 1970s style buildings? I can't think of a single example - but perhaps I am overlooking something. Also, while we are on the subject - was Fort Worth the first big city to successfully revive its downtown? (Not counting cities such as New York and Boston where the importance of their downtown areas never really went away.)