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Welcome - my name is Kevin Klinkenberg, and this site "The Messy City" is my blog and company website. I started blogging on urban planning and design issues in 2007, and began working in the field in 1993. Please feel free to connect with me on any of the social media sites listed here. Thanks for reading.

The sticky wicket of gentrification

We're led to believe there's two camps on the issue of gentrification. One, is that it's a terrible thing, as it displaces people that are poorer and have lived in a neighborhood for years. The other view is that it's a good thing, as it portends the improvement of a city or neighborhood. Scott Doyon pens an interesting piece that personalizes it with his experience in Decatur, GA:

We wanted a place to put down roots, fix up an old house, and stay for the long haul. We were drawn by value — the kind of life we wanted at a price we could actually afford — and benefited from the fact that we were what demographers and real estate developers call risk oblivious — the lowest rung on the sequential ladder of neighborhood change. In short, we were too young, too clueless, and too enamored of the house and its physical context, to think much about crime, schools, race, class, investment potential or anything else.

We stumbled into something that, in the years since, has served us well. So, does that make us gentrifiers?


That’s why, not so long ago, she (another new neighbor) had to sell that house and move on. The quality of life she helped create, and which subsequently enhanced the broader appeal of our neighborhood, ultimately conspired against her. Her years of effort were rewarded with an economic invitation to move on.

Of course, the appreciation she experienced on her property also allowed her to buy her next home outright. So, was she a gentrifier? Or was she a casualty?

Is it possible to be both?

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