Does Placemaking Lead to Gentrification?

Gentrification ComicLast month during a MIplace Placemaking Curriculum training, one of the attendees asked, “Does placemaking lead to gentrification?”

We put this question to some of the MIplace partners and they came back with two very good articles published last month. We added the first article for a little background on gentrification if you are not familiar with it. The other two are summarized with key takeaways, although we recommend reading both in full.

What is Gentrification, Anyway? (Shelterforce)
A brief look at how practitioners in community development define gentrification.

  • If we see any kind of community improvement as gentrification, it’s impossible to move forward.

Gentrification: We’re both the problem and the solution (PlaceMakers)
Scott Doyon examines the rise of the economically depressed neighborhood he moved to and tries to understand who in this story is a gentrifier and who is a casualty. Is it possible to be both?

  • Neighborhoods with characteristics people like (neighborhoods that are places) attract investment.
  • Investment leads to newcomers in the neighborhood. Newcomers who think they are entitled to remake the neighborhood to serve their own narrow band of interests are wrong.
  • But so are longtime residents who think they are entitled to a world without change.
  • Neighborhoods in transition can unite the new and old to create a diverse community that benefits everyone living there.

Is Gentrification Different in Legacy Cities? (Legacy Cities)
Professor Todd Swanstrom discovers previously poor performing neighborhoods that are becoming better places to live do not fit the classic definition of gentrification.

  • Rebound neighborhoods experience a significant increase in per capita income or decrease in poverty rate and vacancy.
  • Revitalization and placemaking are a key part of rebound neighborhoods. Examples include creating pedestrian friendly local retail, opening a high-quality school and using a famous historic cemetery to fund housing rehab.
  • Rebound neighborhoods can improve physically, attract affluent, young professionals and yet remain economically and racially diverse. Therefore it is entirely possible to improve a neighborhood without pushing out minorities and low-income families.