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Previous Issue Abstracts

Spring 2018 Vol. 8.1

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Gentrification and Conservation: Examining the Intersection

Caroline Cheong, Kecia Fong

Gentrification. For many, simply saying the word evokes powerful emotions of anger, resentment, despair and, at times, powerlessness. Such responses are often rooted in experiences of state-sponsored or market-led community expulsion, during which minority communities are supplanted by racially dominant populations. The displacement of residents and businesses is nearly always characterized by tensions between racially- and socioeconomically-defined classes with distinct and contrasting cultural mores. One need only scan recent media headlines to verify the term's popular understanding: "The Bronx sheds image of urban blight, becomes latest target of New York City's relentless gentrification"; "Some Charlotte [North Carolina] residents feeling pressured to move by gentrification"; "Gentrification has destroyed our unique 'Bo-Kaap heritage'" in Cape Town, South Africa; and "Vulnerable residents forced out by the gentrification of West Auckland." 

 

Resisting Gentrification Amid Historic Preservation: Society Hill, Philadelphia, and the Fight for Low-Income Housing

Francesca Russello Ammon

In the 1970s, geographer Neil Smith used Philadelphia's Society Hill neighborhood to examine the process of gentrification. In this 4-block by 7-block area, a combination of restoration and historically-sensitive new construction put a dramatically different physical face on urban renewal. Yet Smith showed that, as with more typical clearance-oriented approaches, renewal still displaced most existing residents and business owners. By analyzing these market dynamics at the neighborhood scale, Smith exposed the combined influence of capital and the state in realizing social and economic transformation. This model has helped shape long-standing associations between historic preservation and gentrification. The present article revisits this same neighborhood to expose the contested nature of gentrification on the ground. Through a prolonged battle, focused on the southwest corner of Society Hill, area residents mobilized government assistance and neighborhood activism in direct resistance to Smith's market forces. The result was the construction of several new, low-income housing units. By examining the conflict over a particular site, this case offers more social and material perspectives on gentrification that neighborhood-level analyses often elide. It further demonstrates that historic preservation can also support "social preservation." While the housing project developed was admittedly small, its realization shows the capacity to disentangle preservation and displacement if the social and political will exists to do so.

 

The Nexus of Arts and Preservation: A Case Study of Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization

Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, Amanda Johnson Ashley

Community organizations are increasingly turning toward the arts and historic preservation to catalyze community economic development, although both strategies have complex histories related to gentrification and placemaking. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the arts and historic preservation have been variously framed as victims, bystanders, and instigators of gentrification. While policymakers have hailed the arts and preservation as cutting-edge economic development strategies, scholars have criticized economic developers, large arts organizations, and historic preservation advocates for art and preservation as strategies that prioritize exogenous urban renewal rather than endogenous community development. There is minimal research, though, on organizations that have intentionally pursued a nexus of arts and preservation, particularly within the context of shrinking/declining cities. This article begins to fill this gap through a qualitative case study of Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) and its signature effort to revitalize the Gordon Square Arts District. DSCDO evolved from a low-capacity organization focused on basic maintenance, public safety, and community organizing into a high-capacity community development corporation that embraces the nexus of arts and preservation to propel both the neighborhood and organization forward.

 

Social Preservation and Moral Capitalism in the Historic Black Township of Eatonville, Florida: A Case Study of "Reverse Gentrification"

Scot French

Can twenty-first-century scholars of gentrification find historical precedents for "social preservationist" ideology in the gentry-assisted black town-building movement of the late- nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries? Might the strategies employed by African-American town-builders and their wealthy white patrons/allies hold relevant lessons for current-day struggles toward social justice through historic preservation? New research into the founding era of Eatonville, Florida—a black township made famous in the Harlem Renaissance–era writings of Zora Neale Hurston and marketed today as the "Oldest Incorporated African American Municipality in America" (est. 1887)—suggests the benefits of viewing social preservationist ideology as part of the African-American community's "long-memory" DNA. Far from exclusionary or isolationist in origin, Eatonville's founding resulted from a deliberate, collaborative effort by ex-slaves and wealthy white Northern "snowbirds" to mitigate/reverse the impact of rural and suburban gentrification and create a permanent social, political, and economic space for black citizens. Through their well-publicized, ideologically explicit acts of place-making, Eatonville's founders ensured that the benefits of neighborhood development would not be reserved for wealthy white investors alone, and that the black laboring classes—as property owners and voters—would play a critical role in regional politics and democratic self-governance.

 

"Gentry"? Heritage Conservation for Communities

Dennis Rodwell

Much of the mainstream discourse on the gentrification of established, historic quarters omits two key factors. First, gentrification requires gentry—namely, a sufficient number of persons of means who wish to live in a given historic neighborhood rather than in houses with gardens and private parking on the urban periphery. Second, the theory and practice of heritage conservation is often assumed by theoreticians, professionals, urban planners, and others to require costly interventions to the built fabric and urban spaces of selected historic areas, which are treated either as a collection of monuments or raw material for major urban transformations.

In the interests inter alia of socio-cultural continuity, cultural diversity, and social inclusiveness, this paper questions the assumptions underlying these factors, challenges the inevitability of gentrification, and illustrates how working with existing communities allied with the oft-neglected but core heritage principle that "the best conservation often involves the least work and can be inexpensive" can avoid adverse socio-economic impacts and negative profiling of heritage conservation.

 

Confronting Exclusion: Redefining the Intended Outcomes of Historic Preservation

Erica Avrami, Cherie-Nicole Leo, Alberto Sanchez Sanchez

The processes involved in designating historic properties have become increasingly participatory over the past quarter century, allowing more diverse publics to ascribe value to and preserve places. However, it is unclear whether such processes can ensure just and inclusive engagement and outcomes for the populations of historic districts post-designation and for other publics with a stake in preservation's effects. This paper examines the issue of exclusion through the lens of preservation as a form of public policy. It specifically investigates the societal aims-cum-benefits that preservation is intended to achieve through legislative mandates; how regulatory criteria address these public policy aims; and how/if these aims are shared by communities. By exploring how preservation success is defined through both public policy (comparative policy review) and the public eye (online survey), this research seeks to identify opportunities for and barriers to policy reform.

 

Eroding Paradigms: Heritage in an Age of Climate Gentrification

Meredith Wiggins

"Climate gentrification" is a term that is getting more traction in both popular media and academic circles. However, little has been done to link this new paradigm to built heritage and place. This short provocation briefly explores how climate gentrification and heritage are inextricably linked, and outlines the importance of heritage to understanding how climate gentrification will shape landscapes, cities and neighborhoods in the future.