Raze, Rebuild, Repeat: Champlain College Students Investigate the Impact of Urban Renewal in Burlington, 1963-2023

This event was held on November 30, 2023 at 6:30 p.m at the Center for Communication & Creative Media, Champlain College.

In 1963 the residents of Burlington voted to approve an urban renewal project that reshaped the downtown area culturally and economically. As a result of the vote, the residential neighborhood previously known as "Little Italy" was demolished and replaced with retail spaces, offices, and other urban amenities. This economic redevelopment still resonates within Burlington's culture and deeply impacts the people within the city. With funding from the Council of Independent Colleges, given through the Public Good Grant, Champlain College students and Preservation Burlington were given the time to investigate how. During Champlain's 10th annual Local History Event attendees were able to follow our students through their creative investigation in answering the question; how has urban renewal impacted the city of Burlington?

Professor and student walking through stacks of archive boxes.
Student presenting their research to the class.

In the classroom, Dr. Jonathan Banfill and his students in his Urban Sonic Placemaking class, led the charge in the study of sound and how sounds in Burlington have changed alongside urban development. The album review, written by members in the class, explains the outcomes of the project best, "Burlington Sonic Hauntologies is an album that encapsulates the spirit of a city undergoing constant change. Through a kaleidoscope of sonic forms, the album weaves together a rich tapestry of soundscapes, field recordings, spoken word, historical artifacts, and musical experimentation. The result is a hauntingly beautiful and deeply evocative journey that transports the listener through the many dimensions of Burlington, Vermont and the history of Urban Renewal".

Jordan Douglas and his photography students captured moments in Burlington which express the physical changes caused by urban development. Along with the soundtrack of Burlington Sonic Hauntologies, a collection of these photos were on display in the Champlain Art Gallery for the entire month of November.

Student recording sound in the mall turned high school.
Student recording video in the contruction site.

With assistance from our special collections librarian and mentorship from Dr. Van Dora Williams, lead student researcher Lily Sakaniwa '23, produced a two part podcast that highlighted the impacts of urban development in the City of Burlington. The podcast, "Outside the Fence", is a two part interview with Monica Farrington, a lifelong resident of Burlington and focuses on the relocation process of residents and where the city of Burlington failed them. Dive deeper into the research Sakaniwa conducted and listen to her entire interview with Monica on Soundcloud.

Sakaniwa continued to tell the story of "Little Italy'' through a camera lens. With the help of the grant, she put her production skills to work in developing the documentary, "Razing for Progress: The Story of Urban Renewal in Vermont''. The documentary focused on the humanitarian effects of demolishing "Little Italy" and exposed the experience of Burlington residents who used to call it home. "Razing for Progress" was screened at the Local History Event on November 30 at Champlain's Center For Communication and Creative Media building.

This showcase event was made possible by a generous donation from Pat Robins and Lisa Schamberg. Watercolors of historic locations in "Little Italy" by local artist Amanda Amend were also featured.

Professor, librarian, and student reviewing archive material.
Close up of professor and student in stacks of archive boxes.