Historic Athens and Mayor Kelly Girtz’s office are partnering together to document the Impact Urban Renewal has had on Athens, as well as to remedy past damage. The Mayor’s Office is funding an internship at the nonprofit so that additional records can be digitized.
“We were just one of many hundreds of communities across the country who were involved in these urban renewal programs throughout the 50s and 60 and 70s, where large swaths of city centers were decimated,” Mayor Kelly Girtz said. “Cities as small as Monroe, Georgia or as large as Chicago were involved in the same kind of activity and fortunately there’s a growing recognition among city leaders than we need to make amends.”
Two Urban Renewal projects in the 1960s led to the razing of the Black Linnentown neighborhood for dormitories at the University of Georgia and hundreds of properties including the Bottoms and Lickskillet neighborhoods as well as a Jewish Temple, which was property now occupied by the Federal Building.
“The city, with significant financial support of the federal government, seized about 350 properties in these two areas by eminent domain. Very much seems clear that Black Athenians were paid less for their property than white Athenians. We want to understand the dynamic even though we know that they were ugly dynamics, because that allows us to do a better job today.”
The records are housed in the Special Collections library at UGA.