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Are legacy cities less likely to gentrify than global centers?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/28/14 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Vibrant cities

Not convinced that gentrification was happening in St. Louis' “upwardly trending” neighborhoods, Todd Swanstrom and Hank Webber studied if legacy cities are more resistant to this strain.

The public policy researchers at The University of Missouri and Washington University found that St. Louis' “rebound” neighborhoods do retain their diversity.

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Is it just the size of the Yuppie tidal wave that makes St. Louis’ Botanical Heights or Cleveland’s Ohio City less gentrified than Brooklyn or Silver Lake?

Swanstrom and Webber looked at three indicators (which, arguably, is a small set of data) to measure gentrification:

Their Neighborhood Vitality Index has three components:

  1. Economic (per capita income)
  2. Social (poverty rate)
  3. Physical (vacancy rate)

A “rebound” area increased at least a decile (10 percentage points) in its ranking on the index for 1990-2000 or 2000-2010.

“What we found does not fit the gentrification model,” Swanstrom writes.

So, they dug a little deeper. What they found is diversity, even in neighborhoods with a sizable (44%) influx of young people. They credit legacy (universities, hospitals) and new assets (a Montessori school in the public system); a “loose” housing market; and young people who are more open to diversity.

One possible conclusion to draw from this is legacy cities have a better than average shot at maintaining diversity even in upwardly trending neighborhoods IF they grow and emphasize shared community assets that encourage young people of all walks to stick around for the long run.

Swanstrom has a Cleveland connection. He worked at the City Planning Commission early in his career and wrote, "The Crisis of Growth Politics: Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of Urban Populism” (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985), 307 pages; paperback edition, 1988.

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Lee Batdorff
3 years ago

Swanstrom did a great service writing "The Crisis of Growth Politics."

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