Politics

Municipal Makeovers

Had Robert Moses, New York City's legendary planning commissioner, lived to see reality television, he probably would have loved the premise of "Town Haul," a new show on The Learning Channel.
by | March 2005

Had Robert Moses, New York City's legendary planning commissioner, lived to see reality television, he probably would have loved the premise of "Town Haul," a new show on The Learning Channel. The program is a bit like all those popular home-makeover shows but on a grander scale: A team of professional designers marches into a small town and transforms its appearance in a matter of weeks.

The first installment of "Town Haul" fixed up Main Street shops and other old buildings in Jeffersonville, New York. The second installment, which premieres on March 5, takes on projects around the historic town square of Laurens, South Carolina. (The show airs Saturday nights at 10 p.m.).

"Town Haul" uses a gentler touch than Moses' brand of urban renewal did. In Laurens, the show's designers renovated a barbershop, built a public amphitheater and created a new park with a children's playground--all with their own funds. "It was like Christmas," says Jenny Boulware, who as director of Laurens' Main Street program has been working to fix up downtown for eight years. "They came with wonderful ideas and great visions for helping us make our community more appealing and attractive."

There is an air of Moses-like secrecy to "Town Haul," however. Residents and elected officials can offer ideas on what sorts of projects they'd like to see get done--but the final list is the producers' choice. The work goes on behind a curtain, and then the townsfolk come out for a big made-for-TV unveiling. "They left a lot to be guessed about," Boulware says. "The whole community was on pins and needles."

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