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Auditing Community: Social Capital and the Development of Boston’s Slum Districts

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
Adam John
University of Liverpool Liverpool UK
In the late 1950’s, the city of Boston, Massachusetts instigated a programme of urban renewal to redevelop two neighbouring slum districts, the North End and the West End. The programme is recognised as one of the most significant examples of its kind, primarily for the impact that the demolition of the West End had on its former residents, but also for the fact that the North End was eventually spared from renewal and left to stand to this day; this importance is reflected in the status of the two projects in literature, in classic studies by Herbert Gans and Jane Jacobs respectively.

This dissertation explores the long term social impact of urban regeneration via the application of the concept of ‘social capital’, which, although widely used by governments and sociologists, has never, until now, been used in the field of urban development. Comparison, in both districts, of social capital ‘stocks’ before and after regeneration shows how, from not dissimilar starting points, social capital was nurtured in one case but destroyed in the other.

The lesson drawn from the study is clear: that architects and urban developers need to extend their analysis to include consideration of social capital if they are to produce successful and sustainable communities. The research provides an academic basis by which to supplement the urban design process and ultimately produce considered and socially sustainable urban neighbourhoods for the future.

Adam John

Tutor(s)
Professor Mark Swenarton
2012
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