A trio of academics attempt an engaging and instructive experiment with their recently published book, Gentrifier (University of Toronto Press, 2017). Through their own lives, John Joe Schlichtman, Jason Patch, and Marc Lamont Hill explore and challenge the ideas and parameters of gentrification.
Although the suburbs are anything but dead, an increasing number of Americans are choosing an urban life. Many cities (and historic streetcar suburbs) provide residents with walkable neighborhoods. More Americans want to step out their front doors and walk to a grocer, a cafe, or maybe even a movie theater. Meanwhile, Americans are rediscovering the needs and joys of community. These are encouraging, positive trends.
However, a renewed desire for urban living places pressure on cities’ housing markets. This leads to changes in the urban fabric and built environment. Boosters call this progress. Critics call it gentrification. A great debate concerning gentrification rages among activists, politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and everyday citizens in many improving cities and those poised for a rebound.
In a few weeks on October 3, 2017, my first book, Left Bank of the Hudson: Jersey City and the Artists of 111 1st Street, will be published by Fordham University Press. To prepare for that and my accompanying book tour, I’ve been focusing on gentrification: reading about it, thinking about it, and talking about it.
Recently, I was chatting with a friend, who is a purveyor of handcrafted candles and body products. She shared her own observations about the effects of gentrification upon small businesses.
After decades of disinvestment and decline, American cities have become desirable places to work and live, especially for young adults in their 20s and 30s. Bloggers, journalists, and authors have documented this trend in cities, both large and small.
Investment and development have followed this population movement into cities and anticipated its continuance. This has raised the concern and sometimes ire of activists, cultural critics, and longtime residents. Once a term relegated to academic discussion, gentrification has entered the vernacular. Rarely does a week pass when I do not read or hear a story detailing the gentrification of a neighborhood or an entire city.
Last week, our neighborhood farmers market opened for the year. Braving the unseasonably wet and cold weather, my wife and I visited the market. We were excited to stock our larder with local produce and food, catch up with our favorite vendors, and see a few friends. Between May and November, we plan all our meals around what is available at the market and what we grow in our own garden. Over the last several years, the market has become the focal point of our civic and social lives.
Farmers markets can be found in neighborhoods throughout most American cities. Even small towns host farmers markets. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 8,200 farmers markets operated across the United States in 2014, doubling the total from 2004.