Of course Shaw was considered obsolete

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shawborders
Shaw School Urban Renewal Plan
Credit:: National Capital Planning Commission
..and a slum, and the wickedest precinct and blighted. Not just in the 50s but in the 60s as well. The '68 riots did not help, unless you mean help as in burning down buildings and chasing out commercial interests.
Plans are always interesting. But my own experience with the records of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (NCPPC) is that some plans don't end up as they start for one reason or another. Georgetown Metropolitan notes that at the same time the NCPPC decided part of Georgetown was obsolete, Congress passed the Old Georgetown Act, which threw a wet blanket on any burning desires or plans to level large tracts in that neighborhood.
I really wished I had written down for reference or copied the bit of NCPC transcript about planners plans for the Southwest Urban Renewal project. The idea was it wasn't going to be just a place where people lived but a destination. Some of those ideas were a little out there on the very optimistic side and those plans of water taxi's and such never came to be. There were previous big plans for Marshall Heights around that time, as their problem was lack of indoor plumbing, but then again that area was a bit rural then, lacking city services like water.
Regarding Shaw there are reams of paper from the time it was part of the Northwest Urban Renewal project (that was scrapped) to the smaller Shaw School Urban Renewal Area, about how screwed up the housing was. There are block by block housing condition studies, a church census, commercial studies, more studies, a boat load of Washington Post articles and at least one graduate level dissertation.
Whatever zeitgeist that allowed for and funding the taking of a whole section of town by eminent domain, leveling it to the ground and rebuilding it in whatever utopian vision the planners had, was gone by the time the NCPC and other agencies were ready to take on other parts of the city. Mistakes had been made and lessons learned.
Lastly, I want to thank Ray 'o sunshine Milefsky for scanning the images that have prompted all this discussion on Greater Greater Washington and the Shaw Neighborhood Yahoo Group. And yes,  to quote you:
"The lessons of this story are many, but paramount is to never go along with the central planners who think they have your interests at heart.  They don't."

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