The 1970s: from Public to Private Redevelopment

Peachtree Center
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The Brimstone Chronicle, 1976

In the 1970s, as activists and officials began to confront the failures of earlier urban renewal projects, city leaders began to shift from promoting public to private redevelopment proposals. This trend was exacerbated by a decline in availability of federal funding for urban renewal projects. In the 1960s, some 60,000 white Atlantans relocated to suburban areas outside the city, while another 100,000 left the city during the 1970s. In response, planners began to advocate for redevelopment projects to attract both suburban commuters and tourists to downtown Atlanta. John Portman’s Peachtree Center and Tom Cousins’ Omni Complex and Georgia World Congress Center were privately financed complexes that were constructed with the goal of revitalizing downtown Atlanta, both economically and socially. The 1970s also saw a rise in protests against urban renewal and slum clearance. Activist groups such as the NAACP, the Black Panther Party, and the Black Women’s Coalition, as well as public housing residents themselves, began to advocate for better living conditions as well as social and economic justice. While racial discrimination in public housing was officially outlawed in 1968, both the federal government and local leaders allowed de facto segregation by using discriminatory practices such as redlining.