Is Urban Revitalization Possible Without Displacement and Gentrification?

Jared Green asks the billion dollar question for economic developers and planning agencies throughout the United States: is urban revitalization of neighborhoods possible without the subsequent gentrification and displacement of current residents?
October 18, 2014, 5am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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Tim Evanson

Jared Green asks this important question in a recent post on the American Society of Landscape Architect's blog, The Dirt. The most recent wave of "urban revitalization" that began in the 1990s to increase wealth in cities is noted by supporters as benefiting everyone, while critics are increasingly calling these initiatives gentrification. Given these disputes, Green discusses how cities can encourage growth while still providing a sense of neighborhood continuity, and how city planning departments can accommodate forces of change while respecting local communities and culture.

Green critiques Washington D.C., citing the work of Charles Hostovsky, an urban planning professor at Catholic University. Hostovsky's work centers on the speed of revitalization in the D.C. area, “[e]very neighborhood has cranes, signifying new development. There has been a corresponding shift in the demographics of the city. In 1970, the city was 77 percent African American. Today, it’s just 49 percent... Indeed: in the past decade, approximately 50,000 young, white Millennials have moved into the city while 35,000 African Americans have left.”

These changing demographics are stark. At a recent EcoDistricts Summit in Washington D.C., Hazel Edwards, professor of planning at Catholic University, discussed successful examples of urban revitalization from around the country that maintained local culture and minimized displacement. “Edwards said the key to revitalization without gentrification is 'bringing residents and the community to the table often and at the beginning.' This kind of public planning process requires a great investment of time and resources by city governments, but without this investment, the only result may be inequitable, developer-led urban revitalization.” In Hazel's words, “cities have to form diverse, inclusive partnerships, foster openness, and collaborate on goals and outcomes.”

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Published on Friday, September 26, 2014 in ASLA The Dirt
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