Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood and Lexington Urban Renewal 1965

N Martin Luther King Jr Blvd street signThe 1960’s was a turbulent time throughout the United States.  The country was changing at an unprecedented rate both socially and politically.  There was war, assassination, drug use, a changing economy, and both civil and women’s rights activism.  In the midst of all this turmoil was a policy that had been born nearly 30 years earlier but had reemerged just as strong as ever before: urban renewal.Originating within the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt Administration in the 1930’s, urban renewal had regained popularity throughout the United States, and in particular, Lexington.  Although urban renewal was intended to benefit the cities in which it was implemented, more often than not it was met with opposition from the people it was meant to help. Cover for Design Plan for Downtown Lexington, 1965The Lexington Urban Renewal Agency was formed in 1959 and Lexington applied in the early 1960s for the new federal urban renewal program grants. Mayor Fred Fugazzi began to implement plans for a new downtown design. The Kentucky chapter of the American Institute of Architects volunteered their time in a Downtown Design Group in 1964, and their plan was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission of Lexington-Fayette County at a public hearing on July 22, 1965. Notice of this plan was given to each property owner in the area bounded on the north by Main Street, on the west by Patterson Street, on the south by High Street, and on the east by Shreve Avenue. Basically, the plan centered on the Main Street retail area as the heart of the city, and the east end of the city was to become a “drive-in” secondary commercial area. Second Street, north and parallel to Main Street, was to become a wide boulevard parkway for local traffic going east-west.  Funding came from a capital grant approved in 1966 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). By the summer of 1966, the Lexington Urban Renewal and Community Development Agency took on the responsibility for implementing the plan. There were almost 300 buildings under consideration, of which nearly half were to be razed.Many community members in both the north and southern area of downtown Lexington were strongly opposed to the plan.  The South Hill Neighborhood Association sued the city and then HUD to try and stop the demolition of some of Lexington’s historic buildings on High Street.

We believe that such opposition by the members of the African-American community on the north side of Main Street was in no small part due to the roles of its women.  Through this project we hope to show how the roles of women affected both the community of the East End and ultimately the position of the neighborhood on urban renewal in a decade of turmoil.


Urban Renewal and Lexington

Women and the East End of Lexington

Memories of the East End community

This project was developed by
Allan Adams, Luke Donovan and Jameasha Pierce
in partnership with the
Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Association.

Front porch of a house in the Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood

Front porch of a house in the Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood, December 2010

Storefront in Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood

Storefront in Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood, December 2010

MLKjr Neighborhood Association Group

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2 responses to Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood and Lexington Urban Renewal 1965

  1. How much time did it acquire u to create “Martin Luther King Jr.
    Neighborhood and Lexington Urban Renewal 1965 ?
    It contains an awful lot of very good details. Thank you ,Rudy

  2. My daughter just moved into a house on MLK Blvd that was built in 1901. I was wondering what the name of the street was back then.

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