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Following World War II, urban renewal provided the resources for city officials and developers to create dramatic changes to the physical and social landscape of West Philadelphia.

Urban renewal in West Philadelphia was part of a larger city- and nation-wide program to maintain the prominence of American cities following World War II. The program aimed to rehabilitate areas of cities identified as "blight." Initially rehabilitation focused on improving housing quality and quantity, but urban renewal laws later expanded to include commercial and institutional development. West Philadelphia was a main target for renewal from the start. Of the first eight sites that were certified for renewal on January 9, 1948, two were located in West Philadelphia—the neighborhoods that included or bordered on the University of Pennsylvania and the Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University), and Mill Creek. Later, additional areas were certified and a plan for the whole of West Philadelphia was published in 1966.

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Following World War II, major cities in the North and Midwest looked to their universities to serve as engines for revitalizing declining urban economies and as bulwarks against “blight,” a designation that city planners routinely and increasingly assigned to neighborhoods that were populated by poor and working-poor African Americans. Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), and the Drexel Institute (Drexel) were the three Philadelphia higher education institutions whose boundary neighborhoods were targeted for urban renewal. In 1948, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) created the University Redevelopment Area in the eastern section of West Philadelphia. It was one of nine redevelopment areas in Philadelphia designated by the PCPC. Charged by Pennsylvania’s Urban Redevelopment Law of 1946 to oversee the details of urban renewal plans (subject to approval by the PCPC and City Council), Philadelphia’s Redevelopment Authority (RDA) divided the university planning area into five units. The units were distributed between the Drexel Institute and the University of Pennsylvania to expand their campuses. Bolstered by federal, state, and city funds, the RDA invoked eminent domain, condemned and bulldozed buildings, relocated residents, and sold the leveled properties to the institutions at a rate well below their market value.