Urban Renewal | Meaning, Process, Pros, Cons & Examples

What is Urban Renewal?

Urban renewal is the strategic process to improve specific areas of a city that are poorly developed or underdeveloped. Urban renewal can be done for both high and low density areas depending on the focus area. These areas can have old deteriorated buildings and bad streets and utilities or the areas can lack streets and utilities altogether. In simple words, the term ‘Urban Renewal’ is used to refer to the general process of transforming the urban environment.

Urban renewal is also known as Urban regeneration in the United Kingdom and In the United States, it is called Urban redevelopment and Urban renewal. It is a process by which land is redeveloped where there is decay. A lot of modern attempts were made in the late 19th century in developed nations and an intense phase was experienced in late 1940 under the rubric reconstruction. The process of Urban regeneration has had a major impact on many landscapes, it has even played an important role in history and demographics of cities across the world.

It can be defined as a process where private properties within a private designated area are first purchased by municipal redevelopment authorities and later reconveyed to selected developers who devote them to certain other uses. Until 1970, displaced owners received only ‘compensation’ as specified in the amendment to the US constitution. However, this measure of compensation only covered only a fair market value of a property and skipped a lot of incidental loses such as moving expenses, losses due to favourable financing and several other business losses such as a decrease in the goodwill of the business. In the year 1970, the state government and the federal government enacted the Uniform relocation association act that provides for some compensation for these losses. The urban renewal process is also carried out in rural areas and this process is known as village renewal, however, it does not practice a similar process.

Related: What is New Urbanism? | Definition, Concept & Benefits

Importance of Urban Renewal

Due to high population pressure, urban area boundaries are increasing at a really high pace than ever before. This has led to a tremendous rise in the rate at which urban sprawl is happening across the country. Due to the constant expansion of urban areas into agricultural hinterland, urban areas are becoming highly unsustainable as large quantities of urban land and buildings are abandoned and left dilapidated and the cities are expanding more outwards. Many communities go to extreme lengths to revitalize their cities such as destroying abandoned homes and developing high-speed rails along the center of the neighborhood, however one thing clear that future redevelopment within a city is possible only through urban renewal. In addition, it is clear that urban renewal is an important part of any city’s urban planning.

Advantages of Urban renewal for a City’s growth

  1. Preservation of Country’s History–A city can capitalize its rich history by removing blighted structures and remodelling dilapidated buildings and homes in the neighbourhood. This step has helped many cities bring back its tourism dollars back into the economy as tourists love visiting historic places.
  2. Clearance of Slums–This is one of the benefits, urban renewal helps in eliminating Slums and creates new interest throughout the neighbourhood. With cities being renewed, it has been noted that slum areas have visibly reduced thus making the place look rich.
  3. Reduction in Crime–it has been noted that there is a reduction in crimes in the cities and areas being renewed. It has successfully helped in eliminating crime gathering spots to a minimum.
  4. Improved Housing stock–with the development of projects like Rocket landing, a neighbourhood contemporary development has helped create partnerships amidst the neighbouring localities, it also involves some kind of creative architecture.
  5. The Economic growth– Economic vibrancy can also be noticed with time with the construction of new renewable projects such as launching new hotels, improvement in already existing buildings.

Major Disadvantages of the urban renewal –

While the urban renewal has many advantages, the Urban renewal also has a few disadvantages such as – 

  • Seizing of property-Someone’s property might be seized in an improper manner causing him or her problems.
  • No proper planning-Sometimes the plans are not properly made causing more harm than benefit.
  • Expensive – It may turn out to be very expensive and pay off not that worth it.

Like any other thing, even this has both pros and cons; therefore, an effective and thoughtful planning is required so that the ending results turn out to be most beneficial.

Objectives and Need of Urban Renewal

The concept of urban renewal envisaged a positive programme of action for achieving better living conditions for the people and more specific goal of integrating new growth with comprehensive planning and reconstruction. It aims to energize and revitalize urban environment. The process ultimately involves the whole pattern of population distribution and functional organization of the urban area, including well planned and coordinated layout and expansion of the city. Few main objectives of urban renewal are as mentioned below-

  • Re-planning and restructuring of concerned urban area
  • designing more effective and accessible local transport and road networks within the concerned urban area
  • rationalizing land uses within the concerned urban area
  • redeveloping dilapidated buildings into new buildings as per effective standards
  • providing more open space and community facilities
  • preserving sites, buildings and structures of historical, cultural or architectural value
  • preserving local characteristics
  • enhancing townscape with urban design

The increment in the population of people living in the unhealthy and hazardous conditions. The increment in the number of the old buildings is causing people living in them, a risk of life due to the collapse of such buildings. Such situations are also an indication of the increase in the gap in infrastructure between the populace and the environment.

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Strategies adopted for the Urban Renewal

Urban renewal is a comprehensive scheme to redress complex urban problems including deficient, obsolete or deficient housing, inadequate transportation, sanitation and other facilities, traffic congestion, haphazard land use, and the sociological correlates of urban decay, such as crime. Earlier the process focused on housing reform and sanitary and public-health measures followed by growing emphasis on slum clearance and relocation of population and industry from congested areas to less-crowded sites. However, now the process is being relooked upon. Each country approaches urban renewal in a very different manner as per its political and administrative systems.

One of the principal activities of urban renewal is redevelopment which involves clearance and rebuilding of structures that are obsolete in nature or are laid out in an unsatisfactory way. Other two aspects of urban renewal involve reuse of land for new purposes, rehabilitation of structurally sound buildings that have deteriorated or lost their functions over time and conservation which is a preventative process designed to maintain the function and quality of an area by assisting adequate maintenance while preventing inappropriate development. There are three basic steps as to the way the operations are carried out. These are Redevelopment, Rehabilitation, and Preservation. They are explained below.

1. Redevelopment as a means of Urban Renewal

It is a process of cleaning old and poor quality structures with new structures. It is an expensive process to achieve. Redevelopment covers demolition, clearance and rebuilding of an entire area with new Structure with new Dimensions and Space. It can transform an underutilized area into economically viable and productive part of the community. It’s applicable to areas, which have gone beyond patching and repairing and where comprehensive acquisition, clearance and rebuilding including roads, utilities and community services are necessary.

The core function of redevelopment is to identify the areas and serve as a catalyst for revitalizing projects. Other needs for redevelopment are mentioned below:

  • Optimal utilization of land by accommodating a larger population
  • Costs a lot to maintain the old and dilapidated structures.
  • Need for enhancement of community facilities
  • Increase in parking requirements
  • Creation of more open spaces
  • Crime reduction

2. Reuse or Rehabilitation of Land as a means of Urban Renewal

In this process, already existing old structures are repaired and transferred back to their original purposes. It is comparatively inexpensive as compared to Redevelopment. Reusing spaces and buildings can be seen as an effective way of urban renewal as it reduces environmental impacts and helps in keeping neighbourhoods occupied and vital. It is considered as an attractive alternative to the construction of new buildings or using non-sealed soil which requires lot more energy and are unsustainable in nature. Various instruments and tools exist for the reuse of spaces and buildings such as spatial strategies and structural, procedural, collaborative and financial tools.

These sites are generally considered as eyesores, negatively impacting social and economic development. The reuse of land helps in revitalization of communities and renews economic activity by bolstering community spirit, creating jobs and boosting local tax revenues. By putting these properties to new and productive use, land reuse and recycling encourages growth of businesses and services and helps in relieving concentrations of poverty, creating jobs, and stimulating additional investments. Also, this is a sustainable idea as it leads to smart and responsible growth.

3. Conservation or Preservation as a means of Urban Renewal

Conservation is mainly concerned with those parts of the built environment that hold some sort of architectural or historical significance. It is aimed at preventing deterioration of the presently sound neighbourhood. Conservation does not mean preservation of all the features but few buildings which are highly significant should be retained in a wholly original form. Lack of maintenance is a major reason for the loss of many valuable older buildings. Urban conservation is important in terms of savings (in both money and energy) in the re-use of older buildings as opposed to the construction of equivalent new structures.


It ensures all activities are carried out through proper and acceptable standards.

  • The area to be improved so as to ensure quality like housing conditions, drainage problem etc.
  • Investigation of existing conditions and characteristics of the area to be renewed.
  • Prepare physical development plans such as community facility plan, land use plan and future improvement program of a set area.
  • Establishing a relocation program when renewal will necessitate popular displacement.
  • The last step in the process of urban renewal process is a final implementation of the renewal program and its evaluation.

Before a final implementation following points must also be considered – sanitization of the community, Identifying sources of finance, land acquisition, Displacement and relocation, Site preparation and the site improvement, and lastly the land allocation.



A final conclusion about how the urban renewal should be achieved – With numerous ways and methods of practice are available in the market to make changes, it is important to pick one that is the most effective; a careful planning is a must so that no harm is caused to anyone while carrying out the planned projects. The aim is to simply achieve more that too at the cost of spending a fewer resources.

Also Read: Rural urban fringe: Concept, History, Reasons, Issues