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The New Urban Renewal

The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville

Two of the most celebrated black neighborhoods in the United States—Harlem in New York City and Bronzeville in Chicago—were once plagued by crime, drugs, and abject poverty. But now both have transformed into increasingly trendy and desirable neighborhoods with old buildings being rehabbed, new luxury condos being built, and banks opening branches in areas that were once redlined. In The New Urban Renewal, Derek S. Hyra offers an illuminating exploration of the complicated web of factors—local, national, and global—driving the remarkable revitalization of these two iconic black communities.
How did these formerly notorious ghettos become dotted with expensive restaurants, health spas, and chic boutiques? And, given that urban renewal in the past often meant displacing African Americans, how have both neighborhoods remained black enclaves? Hyra combines his personal experiences as a resident of both communities with deft historical analysis to investigate who has won and who has lost in the new urban renewal. He discovers that today’s redevelopment affects African Americans differentially: the middle class benefits while lower-income residents are priced out. Federal policies affecting this process also come under scrutiny, and Hyra breaks new ground with his penetrating investigation into the ways that economic globalization interacts with local political forces to massively reshape metropolitan areas.

As public housing is torn down and money floods back into cities across the United States, countless neighborhoods are being monumentally altered. The New Urban Renewal is a compelling study of the shifting dynamics of class and race at work in the contemporary urban landscape.

224 pages | 16 halftones, 22 maps, 2 line drawings, 17 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Black Studies

Chicago and Illinois

History: American History, Urban History

Political Science: Race and Politics

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations, Urban and Rural Sociology


The New Urban Renewal will change the way many people think about socioeconomic stratification within black America. Derek Hyra’s study of the local, national, and global factors that led to the economic transformation of two historic black communities is insightful. And many of his findings on how this revitalization affected relations between the black poor and the black middle are original. It is an important addition to the burgeoning literature on intraracial class conflict.”

William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

The New Urban Renewal is not only a close-up look at two neighborhoods, it is also a broad account of how the sources of change in Bronzeville and Harlem are located in downtowns, D.C., and even more distant places as workers in the global economy demand more and more space in central cities. This is a really ambitious study with tremendous analytical payoff.”

Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

“Derek Hyra’s wide-ranging study tells two important and interesting stories. One is a progress report on the now ongoing gentrification of poor neighborhoods in America’s two major black ghettoes. The other, as the title implies, suggests a new installment of the ‘Negro Removal’ that began in the 1950s.”

Herbert J. Gans, author of Imagining America in 2033: How the Country Put Itself Together after Bush

"[Hyra] gives us an interesting and nuanced picture of how urban change impacts people’s lives, and he reminds us that the growing prosperity of a place may leave many people behind."

Edward Glaeser | New York Sun

"[Hyra] provides a valuable addition to the existing urban studies literature . . . by analyzing the redevelopment of Harlem in New York and Bronzeville in Chicago. . . . The author convincingly shows how economic globalization, national political and economic factors, and local political forces all interact to produce varied outcomes."


"For historians the book is a welcome addition to the study of the African American urban experience. . . . A fascinating examination  of what is happening to two historic black communities and to race relations."

Richard J.Meister | Journal of American History

"Essential reading for gentrification scholars, as well as for scholars of urban affairs, economics, and politics. In addition, given Hyra’s clear prose and the fascinating puzzle that frames the book--why gentrification unfolds differently in two similar neighborhoods--the book would be a fruitful addition to graduate and undergraduate syllabi in a variety of fields. Indeed, students would do well to read Hyra’s account, for it is sure to leave a lasting mark on gentrification debate and policy."

J. Brown-Saracino | American Journal of Sociology

"New Urban Renewal greatly advances our understanding of how and why urban neighborhoods change. Both the methods and the results of this study are innovative contributions to the field of urban sociology. Through its multilayered comparative approach, New Urban Renewal reveals the global, national, and local processes responsible for transforming low-income black neighborhoods into gentrified communities. . . . It is written with clear, straightforward language that makes it easily accessible to undergraduates and of sufficient theoretical rigor to engage graduate students. [It] will be of particular value to courses, scholars, and individuals focused on community development, race and class stratification, and urban politics."

Kesha S. Moore | Urban Affairs Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables

1     Introduction
2     Building a Theoretical Framework of Urban Transformation
3     What's Globalization Got to Do with It?
4     The New Urban Renewal, Part 1: The Empowerment Zones
5     The New Urban Renewal, Part 2: Public Housing Reforms
6     City Politics and Black Protest
7     Racial-Uplift? Intra-racial Class Conflict
8     Conclusion: A revisit of Urban Theory and Policy

Appendix A: Demographic Information
Appendix B: Community Areas in New York City and Chicago
Appendix C: Public Housing Data
Appendix D: The Comparative, Vertical Ethnographic Approach

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