An Interview with Mary Means, Main Street Movement Pioneer

Women in Planning – Part VII

by Victoria Olivier, AICP, Regional Planner and Kristen Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner

Urban renewal, migration from our towns and smaller cities to larger, more metropolitan areas, and attendant growth of suburbs, have created the now familiar contours of disinvestment, abandonment, and decay in towns across the U.S. This trend began as a result of rapid industrialization in the face of two World Wars, accelerating by the mid-20th century, and in some areas continues to this day.

Thus, when urban renewal resulted in tearing down entire blocks within town centers, and shopping centers were luring both stores and shoppers to follow them to the suburbs, it began to look as though small towns would simply fade away. The downward slide of traditional town centers was gradual but steady, and town leaders had little information about how to fight back.

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