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Urban Redevelopment of Lawrence, MA: A Retrospective Case Study of the Plains Neighborhood, by Nick Pernice

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Editor's note: The Lawrence History Center had the pleasure of meeting Nick Pernice in 2008 when he worked as a researcher for the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority (LRA). At that time, Nick was also an undergraduate student at UMass Lowell. His interest in how the LRA altered the both the landscape of the city and its residents lead him to pursue more in-depth research and ultimately write his Masters thesis on the LRA and Urban Renewal, with a concentration on the Plains Neighborhood. Nick spent many hours, including many sunny Saturdays, poring over LHC's Urban Renewal Collection. We are proud to have a copy of Nick's thesis here in our collection and we hope to have him speak about his research soon. Nick is currently a Community Development Assistant for the city of Lowell. “We live in the present, we dream of the future, but we learn eternal truths from the past.” ~Madame Chiange (b.1898) Chinese reformer Urban Redevelopment of Lawrence, MA: A Retrospective Case Study of the Plains Neighborhood is a retrospective case study of urban redevelopment‘s impact in the Plains Neighborhood of Lawrence, MA. It investigates the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority and city officials‘ actions to use eminent domain for a perceived public benefit, via a top down approach, to revitalize the city throughout the 1960s...

My research presented within illustrates powerful institutions and local government‘s actions toward a vulnerable immigrant community, with an undercurrent of gentrification which lies beneath the goals to revitalize Lawrence, MA. This work investigates the clash of differing ideals and perceptions of blight, growth, and what is a desirable community. Topics of why this area was chosen, what events lead up to urban redevelopment, as well as the motive, goals and ramifications of neighborhood clearance are covered. Embracing a strong qualitative methodology, incorporated within are a variety of data collection techniques: seven oral histories, document analyses of administrative records, media investigation of pertinent newspaper articles, as well as quantitative analysis and archival research to uncover how the program impacted the city and its‘ residents. Many urban redevelopment projects took place in Lawrence, but the richest historical records exist documenting the Plains Project. These Lawrence Redevelopment Authority records were discovered in 2007, and since then, the Lawrence History Center has been in the process of cleaning, cataloguing, photographing, and re-housing oversized charts, maps, and architectural plans from The LRA, which is believed to be the most comprehensive, such collection in the country. 

Thesis: Urban Redevelopment of Lawrence, MA: A Retrospective Case Study of the Plains Neighborhood, by Nicolas M. Pernice