Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Israel: Constitution, Government and Politics

Urban Revitalization and the New Frontier

Urban Revitalization: Israel's Project Renewal and Other Experiences, Introduction

Daniel J. Elazar

The Great Frontier

In 1992, the world will celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary, of the opening of Europe's great frontier. That frontier, which opened with Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the New World, brought with it the expansion of European civilization to new lands in North and South America and Oceania. In the process, it generated great challenges, great opportunities, great growth, new freedom, and more equality than ever was known before in the history of civilization.

Four hundred years later, in 1892, taking advantage of an exposition marking the four-hundredth anniversary of the Columbian discovery, the American historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, proclaimed the end of that great frontier in the United States, and in the process offered an explanation that soon became the standard interpretation of the rise of democracy in the United States. In fact, Turner was somewhat premature in his assessment even for the United States, not to speak of the rest of the world. That great frontier actually ended worldwide in the middle of the twentieth century.

More important than the precise date is the fact that, even by the time that Turner made his famous statement, the Great Frontier had initiated a chain reaction, triggering a set of processes that have made the frontier a central and continuing feature of modern and contemporary life. Early in the nineteenth century, first in the United States and then elsewhere, the land frontier gave way to an urban-industrial frontier, whereby territories well-settled by the first frontier had their patterns of settlement transformed from rural to urban as a result of the transformation of their economic bases from agricultural or extractive to industrial.

A century later, no more than two generations ago, the urban-industrial frontier began to give way to the metropolitan-technological frontier. Urbanization became metropolitanization while industrialization was transformed through even newer technologies. In all three cases, new challenges generated new opportunities based upon continued growth, further advancing both freedom and equality. Each new frontier stage added new forms of spatial organization - new patterns of land settlement.

Now, as we approach the 500th anniversary of the opening of the Great Frontier, its cutting edge has entered a new stage, that of the rurban-cybernetic frontier. Each frontier stage has changed the pattern of human settlement and has left a backwash of declining settled areas in its wake. In the past that backwash has been left to its own devices. Today, in a more civilized and concerned world, with less available space, that is no longer inevitably the case.

Urban Revitalization and the Metropolitan Frontier

The metropolitan-technological frontier gave birth to the urban revitalization movement, which soon became part of the continuing frontier process. The distinctiveness of urban revitalization lies in the fact that it is concerned with reutilization of space for the people, not for the rulers. In the past, cities were allowed to naturally decay or, if renewed, were rebuilt at the whim of rulers seeking self aggrandizement through the construction of great monuments or great boulevards. The residents of the areas affected were simply displaced.

Urban revitalization, on the other hand, is based upon the notion that cities could be renewed for the sake of their residents. It is part of the metropolitan-technological frontier in that renewal not only involves new technologies but represents the effort to restore health to particular segments of the metropolitan area. Urban revitalization is a form of urban reclamation, the provision of opportunity through the reclaiming of space otherwise abandoned or in the process of being abandoned. As urban revitalization developed, it added another element to the frontier equation - first to generate opportunity through reclamation and then to generate community as well.

The Frontier and Colonialism

This great and continuing frontier differed from earlier forms of expansion on the land because it was not a one time affair. It became a new way of life. On the other hand, in its latter stages, as Europeans looked for new lands to conquer, it degenerated into colonialism, a distortion of the original frontier purpose. Colonialism also ended with the end of the great frontier.

While in true frontier societies, one frontier stage opened the way to another, where the frontier impulse had become merely colonialism, when the European powers withdrew, retreating in the face of the popular aspirations of the colonialized peoples, the frontier impulse -- already distorted -- disappeared. The continuing frontier in some countries, coupled with the aftermath of colonialism in others, has led to the present condition of the world. Now we must all unite to share the benefits of the continuing frontier and to bring the former colonial areas into its orbit.

The Great Frontier and the Jewish People

For Jews, 1992 will be a bittersweet anniversary. 1492, the year of the opening of the Great Frontier was also the year of the expulsion of the largest Jewish community in the world at that time, the Jewish community of Spain, from its Spanish home. In the short term, that expulsion brought great tragedy. In the long run, it opened up the New World to Jews as individuals and led to the collective effort of the Jewish people to rebuild their national home in one of the final extensions of the land frontier.

Significantly, the Jewish people have been part and parcel of the Western frontier experience since it began, perhaps four millenia ago. The frontier, indeed, is a particularly Western phenomena which got its start in that very first West, western Asia, where the Jews emerged as a people and joined the other peoples then known "the peoples of the West" in settling the southwestern fringes of that continent. Since then, Jews have been found on every frontier and have developed a culture and civilization uniquely adapted to frontier conditions.

Israel is the Jewish people's share of the great frontier of modern times. It should be no surprise, then, that Israel rapidly advanced from the rural-land frontier to the urban-industrial frontier to the metropolitan-technological frontier. As it advanced to the latter, it came to be in the forefront of the urban revitalization movement.

Project Renewal is as much a part of Israel's continuing frontier as its kibbutzim have been for two generations and as its development towns of a generation back. In this respect, Israel has played a unique role, not only bringing the great frontier of our times back to Asia but involving people of African and Asian backgrounds in the frontier process as participants rather than victims. That is the significance of the International Conference on Urban Revitalization: Project Renewal and Other Experiences, sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and held in Jerusalem, March 2-6, 1986. At this conference, which brought together some 550 people from Israel and nearly thirty other countries from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, we examined Project Renewal, Israel's unique countrywide effort at urban revitalization, and similar efforts in other countries.

In preparation for that conference, the staff of the Jerusalem Center prepared a book on Project Renewal in Israel (Lanham, Md: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and University Press of America, 1987). That book describes the Israeli project in detail. Now we are happy to present a selection of papers from the conference itself, examining selected aspects of the Israeli experience in greater depth and the experiences of other countries as well. This volume includes approximately half the papers presented at the conference. It provides a cross-sectional view of the state-of-the-art, state-of-the-field in urban revitalization matters. The materials are divided into eight parts. Each addresses a different theme of urban revitalization.

In Part One we deal with Renewal and Community from the political and cultural perspective. Norton E. Long begins with an examination of "The City and Civilization" offering us spiritual reasons why the local community must be renewed. Adri Duivesteijn examines "Urban Renewal as a Cultural Activity," picking up on Long's theme and his own experience in the Hague to set out what he sees as the way to renew cities.

In Part Two we turn to Israel's Project Renewal. We begin with an overview by the Moshe Hill, "Project Renewal: How Successful a Strategy for Neighborhood Rehabilitation?" His colleague, Naomi Carmon, follows with "Israel's Project Renewal: Evaluation of Goals Achievement." With these two general articles we include two studies of specific neighborhood projects -- Ozzie Samuels on "Katamon Het-Tet: After Five Years of Renewal" and Alex Bloch and David Guggenheim, "Renewal of the Musrara Quarter, Jerusalem" -- and an overview of "Poor Self-Image as a Problem and Main Objective of Project Renewal in Israel -- The Development Town Case," by Itzhak Ben David. Together these five articles offer a comprehensive portrait of Israel's Urban Revitalization effort.

In Part Three, we turn to the Renewal Experience in Other Countries. We begin with a presentation of "Aims of Area-Based Urban Renewal in the Federal Republic of Germany," presented by the Committee on Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development of the Bundestag of the German Federal Republic. Their brief statement of comprehensive aims summarize the general outlook with regard to urban revitalization in the West. A number of the themes in that statement are expanded for Italy by Andrea Devoto in "Urban Renewal and Building Policy in Italy." Their application is discussed in a number of specific cases which follow, including "Urban Economic Revitalization as a Catalyst for Urban Political Change" by Sharon Perlman Krefetz, a study of urban revitalization in Worcester, Massachusetts; "A Cultural Approach to Urban Renewal in the Hague" by Adri Duivesteijn; "Inner City Regeneration in England and Wales with Particular Reference to Liverpool and Merseyside" by G.F. Turner; and "Winnipeg's Core Area Initiative" by Matthew J. Kiernan. What marks all these case studies is their new approach to urban revitalization which combines physical and social dimensions, historical preservation, economic development and social regeneration.

Part Four examines the Interjurisdictional Dimensions of Urban Revitalization. J.S. Fuerst looks at "Decentralization: A Live Issue or Political Ploy" in a number of different European countries in a comparative basis around the Western world. John G. Sanzone examines the American experience in "State and Local Economic Development: The Emerging Intergovernmental Challenges." Also in the American context, Sarah F. Liebschutz examines "The New Localism in Urban Revitalization." Saul Andron tackles a different problem of interjurisdictional relations in looking at "Program and Fiscal Accountability from Afar: The Project Renewal Experience," where a Jewish diaspora community, in this case in Los Angeles, is directly involved in the implementation of urban revitalization programs in Jerusalem and Bet Shean. Paul King follows up on this theme in "The Implications of Diaspora Involvement in Project Renewal for International Bilateral Assistance Programs" in an effort to generalize from the Israeli experience for analogous relationships on the international scene.

Part Five looks at Planning, Renewal, and the Urban Environment. Ronald Thomas presents "The Urban Environmental Design Approach to Planning with People," which includes case studies of his experiences in the United States as to how environmental design can be used to stimulate popular participation in the planning process. Dalia Lichfield examines "Planning for Urban Renewal" in an effort to describe the latest in planning methods used in urban revitalization situations, bringing to bear her extensive experience in Israel. Nahum Ben-Elia focuses in on "The Role and Effectiveness of the Planning Process in Project Renewal: Implications for Program Design and Management." In addition to the Israeli and American experiences, August E. Roesnes discusses "Planning Structure in Urban Renewal: The Case of Norway," and William R. Code discusses "Planning Vitality at the Macro-Scale: The Toronto Experiment."

Part Six looks at Grassroots Organization, Resident Involvement and Community Leadership. One of the most important aspects of Project Renewal has been the development of grassroots involvement in an organized and systematic way, including the mobilization of residents and the development of a local community leadership. The Project has had a measurable success in this respect as indicated by higher voting turnout in municipal elections in neighborhoods that have undergone urban revitalization through Project Renewal and the emergence of candidates for municipal office, many of them successful, from Project Renewal neighborhoods, who got their start in grassroots Project Renewal organizations.

Yael Atzmon looks at "Public Participation in Project Renewal: Autonomy vs. Control," one of the critical and recurring questions in the Project Renewal experience. Despite the commitment to encouraging grassroots activity, the tendency of state and municipal bureaucracies to try to exercise control is almost inevitable. The struggle between autonomy and control, then, was a critical one in the Project. Arza Churchman looks at "What Goals of Resident Involvement/Participation Did Project Renewal Achieve?" Zvi Weinstein continues in this vein in his discussion of "Grassroots Organization in Distressed Neighborhoods in Israel." Audrey Gil focuses on "Citizen Participation in Environmental Design." Ben Zion Shapiro looks at "Social Development in Israel: Structures and Construction of Social Helping," an empirical study of the Project Renewal experience.

Turning to leadership development, one of the most important dimensions of Project Renewal was the development of paraprofessionals. Chaya Itzchaky discusses this in "The Paraprofessional Option." Naturally, frameworks were required for leadership development. Yosef Pardes discusses this aspect in "Schools for the Development of Local Community Leadership." Mark A. Zober and A. Solomon Eaglstein conducted "An Evaluation of the Schools for the Development of Local Community Leadership," a study of graduates of five schools of community leadership.

In Part Seven, we look at Health, Eduction, and Welfare in Project Renewal. Myriam Ostfeld looks at "Community Psychiatry and Neighborhood Intervention" with the Holon Project Renewal neighborhood as a case study. Frieda Macarov examines the role of "The Community Health Nurse in Project Renewal," concentrating on the Jerusalem Project Renewal neighborhoods. S. Werner looks at "Community Physiotherapy Within the Framework of Urban Revitalization," looking at the Israeli project more generally. Michal Burgansky examines "Physical Rehabilitation as an Accelerator of the Social Rehabilitation of Women in a Distressed Neighborhood in Israel," a study carried on in one of the Project Renewal neighborhoods which for purposes of this study has been kept anonymous. A. Ornoy and A. Tennenbaum examine "The Importance of Early Intervention in Children, as Demonstrated in the Project Renewal Child Development Center in Beit Shemesh," the abstract of a research report. Shaul Livnay looks at "Roots: A Community Multi-Disciplinary Program for Delayed Preschoolers," another project in Beit Shemesh. Yosef Orr and Yehuda Ben Hur present their study of "A Communal Project in Environment Education in a Renewal Neighborhood." This project was conducted by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel in Dimona, designed to promote love of the Land of Israel and a concern for the protection of its natural environment. Yosepha Ben-Moshe examines "Health Education Activities in Project Renewal" in a number of different local Project Renewal neighborhoods in Israel. Gil Yaniv looks at "Cooperative Housing for Young Couples: Morasha, Jerusalem." Baruch Yoskowitz reports on an "Evaluation of Public Facilities in the Context of Urban Revitalization in Project Renewal," while Vered Lamm discusses "A Computerized Data Base in Innovative Social, Educational and Welfare Programs." The five foregoing, all in the nature of short research reports, present the basic program or findings of their respective studies.

In Part Eight we look at Phasing Down and Continuity. We begin with a discussion of "Project Renewal in a Mixed Economy of Social Welfare" by Josef Korazim to set the stage. Ronit Dulev presents a "Program for Phasing Down of Renewal in Neighborhoods." Yona Ginsberg and Elia Werczberger look at "Maintenance of the Shared Property in Buildings Renovated by Project Renewal." Our final article moves us into what has become the next phase in the Israeli urban revitalization effort, namely the move to regionalization. In "The Illusion of Neighborhood Revitalization Versus the Reality of Regional Development," Yehuda Gradus and Shira Leibowitz present an intellectual grounding for this next step which is, in any case, necessitated by the fact that outside of the main areas of the country the success of urban revitalization is tied into the transformation of the larger regions of which the development towns are a part.

New Frontiers

In the last decade, a new frontier stage has begun to emerge, based upon cybernetics and the communications revolution, on one hand, and the combination of rural and urban settlement into rurban city-belts on the other. This new frontier stage will require built-in urban revitalization as a continuing dimension of the renewal of civilization. It will involve the routinization of revitalization yet, in every case, the areas to be revitalized are and will be different. Thus there is reason come together to learn the routines and explore the differences.

Aside from the elements already mentioned -- of challenge, of opportunity, of growth, of freedom, and of equality, every frontier must have two additional dimensions. It must involve learning, and it must involve adventure. A frontier, by bringing humans face to face with the unknown and the unsettled, makes obsolete much of what has been learned in the past. Successful conquests of new frontiers is possible only when there is sufficient learning on the part of the frontiersmen, the pioneers.

Beyond that, every frontier involves adventure in the highest sense of the term. Urban revitalization has proved to be that kind of adventure in Israel, as elsewhere. For the moment, it seems to be a continuing adventure, well-suited to take its place on the continuing frontier.

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