Franz J. Vidor

[ Age 87 ] A planning and housing official, he helped oversee Baltimore's urban renewal program 35 years ago.

December 30, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Franz Josef Vidor, a retired city planning and housing official who helped oversee Baltimore's urban renewal efforts 35 years ago, died of lung disease Tuesday at St. Agnes Hospital. A resident of the Charlestown retirement community, he was 87.

Born in Vienna, Austria, he studied at the Vienna Technical College for a year. In a biographical sketch he prepared, Mr. Vidor said he believed in "individual freedom" and left Austria at 19 for England after his home country had been annexed by Nazi Germany. His parents, who arranged for his emigration, died in World War II.

He settled in Utica, N.Y., and was drafted into the Army. Shortly after receiving his U.S. citizenship in 1942, he completed Officer Candidate School and became a second lieutenant.

Mr. Vidor, who advanced to captain, participated in the 101st Airborne's invasion of Holland and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Bronze Star.

After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree at American University in Washington and a master's degree in city and regional planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1950, he became a Baltimore County planner. Three years later, Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro Jr. named him director of the housing bureau in the city's health department - a role where he observed many dangerous and substandard dwelling units in the city's older neighborhoods.

When the Baltimore Regional Planning Council was established in 1957, he became its assistant director and, a year later, its director.

In 1966, he joined what became the city's Department of Housing and Community Development and served as its director of planning until his 1986 retirement.

"He mastered a formidable challenge - from supervising the planning, to drafting its legislation and managing the community review process of hundreds of millions of dollars of urban renewal redevelopment," said former city assistant planning director Alfred W. Barry III.

In this role, he meet with community groups and City Council members. He worked on the rebuilding of Fells Point, as well as the Gay Street, Oliver, Oldtown and Upton areas at a time when Baltimore received many federal urban renewal funds.

"He was an old-school planner who had a sense of the physical needs of neighborhoods," said M. J. "Jay" Brodie, Baltimore Development Corp. president and a former city housing director. "He ran a good planning department and attracted good people. There were a lot of difficult decisions to be made, but what we did has pretty well stood the test of time."

A member of the American Planning Association and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, Mr. Vidor helped establish planning education programs at local community colleges.

He was a member of Holy Nativity Lutheran Church and was active on a housing concern committee of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 6 at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, 701 Maiden Choice Lane.

Survivors include two sons, David Lisle Vidor of Atlanta and Mark Bevan Vidor of Rodgers Forge; two daughters, Elisabeth Vidor Steele of Johnstown, Colo., and Katherine Vidor Limpert of Fullerton; a friend, Catherine Shortall of Catonsville; and five grandchildren. His wife of 33 years, the former Margaret Lisle, died in 1980.

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