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Locating Resistance to Urban Renewal in Asheville, NC Final Blog Post

Locating Resistance to Urban Renewal in Asheville, NC Final Blog Post

For the full presentation, please visit 

Background (1st box in presentation)

Urban Renewal efforts during the 1950s through the 1970s impacted many cities across the country. Asheville was just one of the few cities impacted by the policies. In theory urban renewal was set in motion to enhance the landscape of cities and provide displaced residents with model housing. In practice, many communities of color were flattened, replaced with wide roadways, highways, and new multi-story buildings. Prior to Berman v. Parker 1954, the judicial system played a significant role in reviewing government condemnation. After this decision, and with the rise of "blighted" areas, communities began to see the impacts of urban renewal. Many communities organized members to fight these advances. Places like Los Angeles saw riots where sites of major renewal efforts existed. Some urban renewal projects reproduced the stratification existent within communities prior to urban renewal.

General Information (2nd box in presentation)

I split up the process of urban renewal into two basic periods. The first, and the focus of this project, is Condemnation & Compensation. The second is Relocation. In this latter period, relocation started out to mean simply "displacement" without the requirement of finding those being displaced a new home. In 1949, the Federal Housing Act set a new, two-pronged goal: localities must try to relocate families and some of the moving expenses could be covered by local renewal agencies. In Asheville, a few articles are written about dollar lots. These lots were designed to allow former residents to find housing in the neighborhoods of their choosing. The 1959 Report of the US Commission on Civil Rights notes the following about relocation.

The most difficult and important test of urban renewal programs is in the relocation of displaced families. This is particularly true with respect to nonwhite families whose mobility is limited not only by virtue of their economic status but also by racial restrictions. 

Looking at Real Estate Documents (3rd box in presentation)

Focusing on Condemnation & Compensation allows me to look more in-depth at the newly available real estate documents for properties claimed through eminent domain processes. I suspect this community acted in similar manners to those in Los Angeles and other sites of urban renewal. Although their properties may have been claimed through eminent domain, this does not mean they laid down and gave in automatically. To explore this, I chose to look at real estate documents that can tell us more about the process from condemnation to compensation to relocation. Generally, property owners can defend themselves or ask an attorney to step in on their behlaf in a land condemnation action. What we have to remember is that property owners must receive just compensation for their "condemned" property. Just compensation in the state of North Carolina refers to the fair market value of the property on the date of the taking ( Emmett Boney Haywood), usually this is date that the land condemnation petition or complaint is filed. Essentially, the home owners did not have to accept the government's first offer and 4 home owners on Black Street (the street chosen for a first look at housing documents) did just that and filed petitions. If an agreement was not reached, then the condemning authority would file a lawsuit in the NC Superior Court in Buncombe County. Then a summons is issued and the defendants have a set time to answer the lawsuit. According to the former Executive Director of the Asheville Housing Authority, "very few people took the route of refusing to sell," although he is referring to black businesses and not necessarily personal properties in the East End area (Williams). 

Currently I am only using the overview page of each property's real estate documents, as these are digitized for all the properties in the area. We do know that other legal documents are available to further develop a more complete profile of each property. These include deeds and public hearing materials. 

Next Steps (5th box in presentation)

I have chosen to look at the real estate documents for the properties and my claims of resistance to urban renewal in this community can only be strengthened by other sources. One source is looking through past and current media around this topic. Some interviews with various members of the community are available, but these paint a complex picture of negative and positive impacts of urban renewal. Not all of the families relocated were homeowners. Many of those renting properties during this time actually benefited from the urban renewal process, making it difficult to determine whether or not they would have had a stake in resisting such policies in the way that homeowners might. Oral histories are also available from various members of the community also shed some light on the general atmosphere during these times. 

Community Preservation (Final box in presentation)

The area most impacted by urban renewal has a rich history filled with an African-American presence. This presence dates back to the times of slavery. East End was the probable location of James Patton's family slaves, a locale that would become a vibrant African-American community during reconstruction. Prior to integration, Stephens-Lee High School was the only high school in the area willing to accommodate African-American students. Alumni from that school have created an alumni association, despite the destruction of the school. The community has suffered and persevered through some tough times, and it would be a pleasure to add another layer to this rich history. 


Haywood, Emmett Boney. Eminent Domain FAQS

Pritchett, Wendell E. 2003. The "Public Menace" of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain. Yale Law & Policy Review 21(1):1-52.

Report of the Connecticut Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights: July 1963

Voices of Asheville Oral History Collection

Williams, Sarah. Housing, Revisited: A discussion with former Asheville Housing Authority Director David Jones





Really important use of data to discover the stories beyond the offical stories.   Great work, Felicia.


Felecia, I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished.  "Locating Resistance to Urban Renewal in Asheville" will certainly create a much needed community conversation.  It is really important for two reasons (1) to allow healing for those community members impacted and (2) to grant a better understanding of the impact. 

Thank you so much for taking an interest in this project.  Please let me know if you would like to continue your great work.  It will be an honor to be a part.