The Cleaborn Homes public housing development was built in Memphis in 1955. The Memphis Housing Authority began demolishing it in April this year. The powers that be are telling us that this is improvement, that those forced to leave will be better off, and that the new beautiful development for higher-income people that will be built will be better for Memphis.
But is there any real gain in tearing down people’s neighborhoods and communities? What good actually results? We are told the buildings are old, in which case they could have been rehabilitated or completely replaced, but with the original residents given first priority to be allowed back in when the new construction is completed. We are told the area is overcrowded, but the reconstruction could have been designed to lower density. We are told that the area has become a crime problem, without any regard for the impoverished living conditions that fuel crime. In fact, the mass displacement of these folks may trigger more crime, as their cost for housing, even with vouchers, will be far more significant.
In short, while redevelopment advocates have perhaps shown why the old buildings need to be torn down and replaced, they haven’t shown why the original residents must be uprooted and moved to other areas of the city. The reasons for THAT they’d rather not touch with a ten-foot pole.
And so the memories of more than 50 years come crashing down at the behest of a heedless monster machine called greed and progress, banished to live only in the mind, faded photos and a couple of t-shirts. All “progress” isn’t forward.