1970 - 1978
This map sketch serves as a ghostly reminder of the promises and failures of Urban Renewal. Like many cities across the state, St. Joseph experienced a decline during the second half of the twentieth century. The Belt Highway expansion, the construction of East Mills Mall, and suburban growth to the east left a once-bustling downtown area abandoned. By the end of the 1960s, city leaders looked at Urban Renewal as the only solution to remedy St. Joseph’s ills. In June 1970, local officials authorized an agreement between the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of St. Joseph (LCRA) and the city to use federal funds to rehabilitate the central business district. Over the next months, city officials and newspapers boosted support for Project MO R-92. As depicted in the LCRA sketch, the plan would bring new businesses and amenities, replace dilapidated structures with new buildings, and ultimately revive downtown while not raising taxes. In September 1970, St. Joseph voters approved Urban Renewal by a 70 percent margin.
Support for redevelopment soon turned to disenchantment as the promises made to St. Joseph residents never materialized. By 1975, the city had overspent federal funds, the construction of a pedestrian mall–the centerpiece of the project–was delayed, and the LCRA failed to attract businesses and sell parcels. Beyond paving streets, installing lighting, and razing dilapidated buildings, the $16 million MO R-92 project caused the further demise of downtown. Businesses moved out of the area, and over 100 buildings, many of historical significance, were demolished. When the project closed in 1978, parking garages and empty lots had replaced the Market Square and other buildings that had positioned St. Joseph as a major regional hub.
Categories: Cities & Towns
Date: 1970 - 1978
Contributing Institution: St. Joseph Museums, Inc.
County: Buchanan County