Thu 6/14 @ noon
For decades now the “G” word, “gentrification,” has struck terror into the hearts of urban dwellers as more and more upper income families and individuals have come to the stark conclusion that residing in suburbia — especially after the kids have left the nest — is akin to a slow, suffocating death. If the isolation and distance from cultural amenities and exciting nightlife doesn’t do you in, the commutes that seemingly get longer and longer each year eventually will do the trick.
Realizing that gentrification is a major concern for some communities of Cleveland, the City Club is bringing in Malo André Hutson, PhD, on Thu 6/14 @ noon to speak on this subject and answer questions. Dr. Hutson is an associate professor and director of the Urban Community and Health Equity Lab at Columbia University and one of the country’s leading experts when it comes to studying and understanding the effects gentrification has on neighborhoods.
His 2016 book,The Urban Struggle for Economic, Environmental, and Social Justice: Deepening Their Roots, seeks to “explore how coalitions of residents, community leaders, unions, and others are trying to resist displacement as a result of neighborhood change and gentrification to transform their communities to sustainable healthy communities (defined as economically strong, environmentally clean, and socially just communities).”
In the brief conversation I recently had with Professor Hutson he elaborated on some of the themes of his book. “We know that folks residing in communities where they have deep roots are generally healthier, and usually have more political clout, which allows them to have more control over their lives. Gentrification can disrupt those realities and outcomes if care isn’t taken.”
And the culture clash has been exploding in many cities across the country. What started out as a trickle at the turn of the last century has now turned into a full-blown tide of humanity clamoring to move into once-avoided inner cities. However, in most instances, the newcomers are not desirous of joining the residents of existing communities as much as they are bent on replacing them — essentially driving them out via soaring home and land prices.
Already the bane of some west-side residents in neighborhoods like Detroit/Shoreway, Tremont and Ohio City, gentrification — at least the fear of it — is now causing panic attacks in my Ward 7 community of Hough as development is once again beginning to move forward. Townhomes in the $400,000 price range are being built in the ward, right on Euclid Avenue at E. 73rd Street. This would be totally unimaginable a scant five years ago.
Thankfully, by utilizing the strategies developed by Malo Hutson and other experts, community residents can actively play a role in the future of their own neighborhoods, assuring that when gentrification comes (as it certainly will) existing communities are not destroyed in the process. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, where one group has to lose in order for another group to win. We can all peacefully coexist.