Renewing Urban Renewal

Renewing Urban Renewal

What was the idea of urban renewal?

Urban renewal originally described a progressive, well-executed approach to remaking ailing cities in the 1960s. Today it is equated with wholesale destruction of urban neighborhoods and displacement of thousands of citizens.

Where did urban renewal occur in Washington, D.C.?

In Washington, the epicenter for this phenomenon was a large swath of Southwest, D.C. Yet although the results of such projects elsewhere were soulless superblocks punctuated by bland architecture, the new Southwest was of a remarkably high quality. Architects like Chloethiel Woodard Smith used the vocabulary of modernism to design enduring residential communities. Urban renewal may have forced stark elimination of 19th-century Southwest, yet Woodward Smith’s designs exemplify why planners placed great hope in redevelopment.

What is the legacy of Southwest Washington, D.C. urban renewal?

As these buildings come of age and are eligible for landmark status, this is the perfect opportunity to explore what might be worth preserving and gain inspiration from the successful restorations of Arena Stage and the former Marina View Towers. This walking tour will also identify what has already been lost, noting the tension between preserving urban renewal landscape plans and developing densely near public transit hubs.

What attendees are saying

"A couple of girlfriends and I did the Southwest DC Urban Renewal walk yesterday with Carolyn and even as neighborhood residents, thoroughly enjoyed it. Carolyn’s passion for city history really shines through. Great walk and was pleasantly surprised by the other knowledgeable walkers on the tour. Highly recommend these walks whether you’re visiting the city or live nearby. Keep up the great work Washington Walks!" - Tripadvisor review

Discover more great D.C. walking tour adventures: Historic Southwest Waterfront and L'Enfant Plaza: More Than You Think

Looking for a private guided tour of Washington, D.C.?  Any of our tours can be booked privately on a day and at a time of your choice!  Details here.

Guides that may lead this tour: 
Portrait of Carolyn

CAROLYN attributes her devotion to walking tours to perambulations through her new hometown when she arrived to earn an M.F.A. in Acting from The Catholic University of America. She is the founder of Washington Walks.

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Saturday, June 8, 2024, 11:00 a.m.


Available for private bookings. Please email for more information.

Approximately 2 hours
Available for private bookings.

$35 per person


Email for a private tour quote.

Embarks from outside Waterfront Metro station.
Questions? Answers here.

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