Measuring the Impact of Urban Renewal: DH that Counts!



This remarkable project on redlining, race, and reparations shows the real world impact that Digital Humanities can have when rooted in community, activism, values—and done with mission and determination. The project began by documenting redlining primarily against Black and brown communities, beginning back in the 1930s with federal housing laws and continuing to the present, was started by Professor Richard Marciano and his team at the San Diego Supercomputing Center. One of HASTAC’s other cofounders David Theo Goldberg, then Director of the University of California Humanities Research Center, introduced me to Richard, and then all of us began working together as part of the Digital Media and Learning Initiative at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. After Richard moved to the University of North Carolina, I was fortunate to be able to work with him again since I was then at Duke University near by. He worked with a team and presented his work at the PhD Lab in the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute that I cofounded there, focusing primarily on the Black community in Asheville, NC, that had been radically displaced by gentrification. Now Richard is at the University of Maryland, in the College of Information Studies, continuing his incredible work that conjoins data, equity, and social justice. Working with activists and community leaders in Asheville, his DH team found evidence in historical and government records, presented the case using data, and supplemented the narrative and eye-witness groundwork of the locals who stayed at this for several years. Below is an account, with links to the actual event, of a presentation at the “Asheville Community Reparations Meeting” on March 20, 2023. —Cathy N. Davidson


MEASURING THE IMPACT OF URBAN RENEWAL was presented at the Asheville COMMUNITY REPARATIONS COMMISSION MEETING on Monday, March 20, 2023 – see recording at:

Priscilla Robinson (local resident, community leader in Asheville and Director of Urban Renewal Impact collaborative, NC — see:, Myeong Lee (Director of Community Informatics Lab @ George Mason U. — see: and Richard Marciano (Director of Advanced Information Collaboratory ryland — see: presented at the Monday, March 20 Racial Reparations Commission in Asheville NC (the 25 members of the Community Reparations Commission were appointed by Asheville City Council on March 8, 2022, and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on March 15, 2022).

The presenters discussed how computational analyses can create datasets that can help measure the impact of urban renewal in the Southside neighborhood of Asheville from the mid-1960s to the present. The “Measuring the Impact of Urban Renewal” study includes the following collaborators: A. Ray McCoy, Mark Conrad, Rosie Grant, Alexis Hill, Phillip Nicholas, Noah Scheer, and Alan Wierdak.

See preliminary study findings at: (both the Full Executive Summary Report and the Companion Paper).