OHIO — Researchers from Ohio State University are recreating neighborhoods that once existed in Columbus after the development of highways. 

What You Need To Know

  • Understanding the history and impacts of urban highway construction and how they tore through Black neighborhoods is key 

  • Dr. Harvey Miller said the harm created includes lost homes and businesses, displaced residents and wealth creating opportunities which disappeared 

  • Researchers want to create virtual reality experiences of lost streets and neighborhoods in Columbus to give people a feel for what was lost

  • To learn more, click here

“These highways were built through Black neighborhoods and on purpose in order to benefit mostly suburban commuters, said Dr. Harvey Miller, professor and leader of the Ghost Neighborhoods of Columbus Project and director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis.

As this has gone on over the years, Miller said areas in Columbus and other U.S. cities are still feeling the negative impacts. This includes poor air quality, more heat stress because of too much concrete and noise risk, and from road trauma. 

Looking forward, Miller said that now that they’ve discovered historic data about U.S. cities dating back to the 1800s, they have “basically figured out a way to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to extract the building level data from these historic atlases and populate a geographic information system database that allows us to create really compelling visualizations, and do very detailed analysis of what these neighborhoods used to look like and the type of activities that went out there.”

So far they’ve been able to create realistic depictions of neighborhoods in Columbus. Eventually, researchers want to get to the point where they can create virtual reality experiences of the neighborhoods so that people can get a feel for what was lost.

In addition, the goal is to combine “3D visualizations with story maps that capture historic photos, interviews and narratives that allow people to take virtual tours of these neighborhoods that were lost to highway construction.” Ultimately, the project will give researchers the chance to share with the public detailed depictions of neighborhoods, businesses and activities that used to go on before highways were constructed.