From Urban Renewal to Tax Increment Financing: Mapping the Financialization and Spatial Politics of Redevelopment in Post-Industrial Milwaukee

Authors: Hilary Wilson*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: urban redevelopment, economic geography, critical cartography, financialization, Milwaukee
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 26
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For nearly two decades, scholarship on neoliberal urbanism has argued that since the stagflation crisis of the 1970s, the processes of globalization and federal devolution have forced local states to become more entrepreneurial and to “interiorize” neoliberal policy prescriptions. More recently, scholars have highlighted the role of finance in neoliberal urban development, arguing that as entrepreneurial strategies fail to produce local economic growth, urban governance is becoming increasingly financialized, leading to an ever-greater emphasis on extracting exchange values from local built environments. While this literature identifies important constraints on local state action, the contingencies and intra-local politics of financialized urban governance remain underexamined, particularly beyond the spectacular cases of financial crisis in cities like Detroit and New York City. In contrast to conventional analyses of neoliberal urbanism, research focused on local histories, institutions, regimes, and power suggests that the priorities and outcomes of local development policy remain a function of both extra-local dynamics and political struggle at the local and regional scales. In this paper, I build on these diverse approaches to urban political economy as well as critical theorizations of cartography in tracing the financialization of redevelopment policy in post-industrial Milwaukee. A descriptive spatial analysis that combines secondary socio-economic data with textual data from planning, legislative, and news media archival materials from 1955 to the present reveals the contested nature of redevelopment politics spanning the post-war and neoliberal periods and the ability of local advocates for social welfare to influence the redevelopment process.

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