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Economic diversity is inevitable in Roxbury

Melvin B. Miller

Roxbury is by no means a slum. Some buildings need extensive maintenance but there are no adjoining blocks of deteriorated housing as in black communities in some other cities. The massive Washington Park Urban Renewal Project tore down dilapidated houses or those that were too expensive to maintain and built instead affordable housing. Solid buildings were renovated by their owners to meet the standards established and became rental units of family homes.

While the Washington Park Project was underway from 1957-1973, another economic development was occurring. What were then high tech companies were locating outside of Boston along Route 128. In 1957, 99 new companies were established there, providing 17,000 new jobs, but by 1979 the annual total of new companies had grown to 1,212. Many small towns along the circumferential highway saw their populations grow dramatically with the suburban boon.

During this period numerous low- and moderate-income housing developments were established in Roxbury such as Marksdale Gardens, Charlame Homes and St. Joseph’s Co-op. Despite the increasing move to the suburbs, Boston still remained attractive for upscale housing. Victorian era row buildings in the South End that had become rooming houses were converted into expensive condominiums. Those who could afford this housing changed the character of the South End. A similar process is now underway in South Boston.

It was just a matter of time before astute realtors would discover the beauty and convenient location of Roxbury. It is inevitable for Roxbury to become the home of economically as well as racially diverse residents. Those opposed to the change can protest, but they will be unable to prevent a natural process from occurring.

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