“It’s not about you and your pocket alone; let it be for the collective joy of your entire neighborhood and beyond.” – Israelmore Ayivor
Gentrification is a word that means different things to different people. It is a term used to describe positive community development that includes increased home values, new businesses and job opportunities, safer streets and neighborhoods, increased tax revenues. That’s one side of this coin, the other is the word displacement where current residents of a neighborhood may be forced to move because they can’t afford to live in the changing neighborhoods. In researching the impact of Katrina for a novel I am writing, I ran across, Richard Campanella, a geographer with the Tulane School of Architecture, who writes about New Orleans. I have taken up with him and subsequent related writers in an attempt to educate myself on the topic of gentrification as it pertains to Rocky Mount’s revitalization. Let’s sit down on a bench along Main Street and talk about a few aspects of this topic. I promise, it is fascinating….well, I think it is!
How are we going to look at gentrification? How do we mitigate the negative aspect of gentrification while pursuing the benefits?
There has been a reversal of the abandonment by the middle class of inner cities as young professionals rediscover (downtown Rocky Mount and our Historic Districts) in urban areas across the country. People today are abandoning their cars and long commutes in favor of walkable communities where they can live near their jobs in an “ambiance of urban authenticity.”
When I treat myself to a drive through the Historic Districts, Villa Place and Edgemont, two of our greatest assets in support of economic development, I fantasize flashing signs that say to investors, home buyers….. OPPORTUNITY. Here we have housing with architectural credentials, great locations, and wonderful people that are restoring and preserving these amazing structures. We’re not the size of Brooklyn or other large urban areas where this topic looms large, but in our own way, we have to address the problems and celebrate the benefits of Gentrification.
Next Time: Join Me On a Main Street Bench For Part 2