Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

The Persistence of Failed History: “White Infill” as the New “White Flight”? by Richey Piiparinen

[ I’ve featured the work of Richey Piiparinen before. Described by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a “trouble-making demographer”, a recent study he and Jim Russell put out got quite a bit of attention. And it paid off for Richey, who’s just been appointed a research fellow at Cleveland State University. He’s being put in charge of the new Center for Population Dynamics there. Congrats to Richey. In his honor I’m running today’s piece by him, which has been sitting in my posting queue for quite a while. Enjoy – Aaron. ]


Image via Columbus Underground

“There is a secret at the core of our nation. And those who dare expose it must be condemned, must be shamed, must be driven from polite society. But the truth stalks us like bad credit.” – Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates

***

With the recent Supreme Courts strike down of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was created to protect minority representation, the headline in the Huffington Post read “Back to 1964?” While some contend the title hyperbolic, the HuffPost lead, if not the strike down itself, reflects the reality of a country still tethered to its discriminatory past.

This reality is reflected in all facets of American society, including urbanism. Specifically, is the “back-to-the-city” movement destined to become 1968 inverted; that is, instead of “white flight” there’s “white infill”? If so, the so-called “game-changing” societal movement will be a process of switching out the window dressing, with the style du jour less lace curtains, more exposed brick.

While debatable, there appears to be a back-to-the-city trend, particularly the inner-core areas of America’s largest and most powerful cities. For instance, according to a recent report by the Census Bureau, Chicago’s core exhibited a 36% boom in its population from 2000 to 2010—a gain of nearly 50,000. Rounding out the top five core-growth gainers were the cities New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. The report finds that, on average, “[T]he largest metro areas—those with 5.0 million or more population—experienced double-digit percentage growth within 2 miles of their largest city’s city hall…”

Who is moving into these “spiky” urban cores?

Whites largely. For example, much of Chicago’s core gains comes from the downtown zip code 60654, in which 11,499 (77%) of the area’s 14,868 incoming residents were white, and where the median family income is $151,000. Other zip codes in Chicago’s core share similar proportions of growth, such as 60605, with 70% of its 12,423 new residents being white. Contrast this with a 5% growth rate for blacks.

As well, according to research by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examining the zip codes with the largest growth in the share of white population from 2000 to 2010, 15 of the top 50 were located in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C. Philadelphia’s downtown zip code 19123 grew its population by nearly 40%, and its proportion of whites increased from 25% to almost 50%. In D.C., the growing core zip code of 20001 increased its white share from 6% to 33% in a mere 10 years. While in Brooklyn, the zip codes 11205 and 11206 showed similar growth dynamics, with overall gains of 15% and 18% respectively, and corresponding increases in the white share of approximately 30%. Also on the Institute’s list are zip codes in not-quite-global cities such as Chattanooga, Austin, Atlanta, St. Paul, Indianapolis, Tampa, and Portland, with the vast majority of the “whitening” areas located in, or besides, the downtown core.

Now, why does it matter if whites are leading the charge into those cores frequently championed as evidence of a new social order? After all, it is a step forward, right? Or, as urbanist Kaid Benfield recently wrote:

Inner cities are growing again. People of means, especially young people, want to be in cities today. While that carries its own set of challenges, I would submit that addressing the challenges of gentrification is a far better problem to have than coping with massive abandonment and rampant crime.

While that line of argument has merit, what’s missing is a deeper examination about those “people of means”. Specifically, a recent study out of Brandeis University showed the wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled over the past 25 years. That said, the people of means wanting to be in cities is largely the same people who always had means, and they are simply taking their means from one geography to the next; that is, from the suburban development to the urban enclave.

Gap

Of course many argue that infusing affluence into an area will create broad spillover effects. Tweeted urban planner Jeff Speck:

“A beautiful and vibrant downtown can be the rising tide that lifts all ships. #walkablecity”.

Yet there is little evidence of a “trickle down” effect within “rejuvenated” space. For instance, in his piece examining the aforementioned D.C. zip code of 20001, Dax-Devlon Ross writes:

In 2011 alone, condos accounted for 57 percent of total home sales (276), most at triple the 2000 median price. The zip code now boasts an Ann Taylor, a Brooks Brothers, an Urban Outfitters, enough bars to serve several university populations at once and a mind-boggling 10 Starbucks…

…What’s telling about the zip code’s “new build” makeover is that it did not move the poverty needle. The zip code’s poverty rate is exactly what it was in 1980, 1990 and 2000 — 28 percent — and the child poverty rate is nearly twice what it was in 1990 (45 percent).

In other words, such developmental strategy is a game of whack-a-mole in which the raison d’être for the mole won’t stop until real economic restructuring happens, or until equity truly starts entering into the lexicon of our shared language. Instead, we get the apologia of the status quo that is shifting the same affluence to the same pockets, switch out the spatial aesthetics of the parking lot for the parklet.


Trump Towers Chicago. Image via Medill New Service

That said, there is real doubt the country has the stomach for such discourse, let alone for policy that can affect the prioritization of human and community capital. From the article “Separate, Unequal, and Ignored”, the author suggests that “[r]acial segregation remains Chicago’s most fundamental problem”, and he questions why the issue remained muted during the recent mayor’s race. Answered Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey:

“[Segregation] is a very difficult and intractable problem. Politicians don’t like to face up to difficult and intractable problems, whatever their nature”.

Unfortunately for city proponents, this same inability to face the issue by leading urban thinkers is making the “new urbanism” movement look really old. Asked about the risk of racial and economic homogeneity at the hands of the “back-to-the-city” movement, Alan Ehrenhalt, author of “The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City”, answered this way:

I think you’re going to have class segregation no matter what you do. It would be nice to have people of all classes living right next to each other in gentrified downtowns. That’s probably not going to happen. It is true that a gentrified area tends to become less diverse. Cities can’t solve all problems.

No, cities can’t solve all problems. But neither should cities be used to make existing problems worse. Re-urbanism, or specifically the opportunities it creates for equitable reinvestment, should be respected for what it is: a chance to move forward from a divided, destructive past.

Yet such will take collective will and reflective honesty. Or the ability to look deep in the mirror at the American face and know that behind us is a persistence of failed history.

This post originally appeared in Richey Piiparinen’s blog on Jun 25, 2013.

50 Comments
Topics: Economic Development, Urban Culture

50 Responses to “The Persistence of Failed History: “White Infill” as the New “White Flight”? by Richey Piiparinen”

  1. John Morris says:

    “I think you’re going to have class segregation no matter what you do. It would be nice to have people of all classes living right next to each other in gentrified downtowns. That’s probably not going to happen.”

    It’s certainly much easier for a dense, mixed used city to house many diverse groups in close proximity. That after all was the character of many of the old neighborhoods removed by “Urban Renewal”

    Newark’s Central Ward was a dense mix of Italians, Blacks, Jews and other groups.

    Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill mixed poor & middle class blacks right near Pittsburgh’s “high end” downtown business district.

    East Harlem sits right above the Upper East side.

    Its really a pretty simple issue of supply & demand. People who say they cherish pretty windows or a certain historic type of building are often making a convenient excuse to exclude others.

  2. John Morris says:

    “Yet there is little evidence of a “trickle down” effect within “rejuvenated” space. For instance, in his piece examining the aforementioned D.C. zip code of 20001,”

    Everyone knows DC has pretty extreme zoning & height limits meaning one can only add new people by removing many of the old.

    Supply & Demand.

  3. Matthew Hall says:

    East Harlem increasingly isn’t East Harlem anymore. Areas that were flop houses only a decade ago are now market rate with major new investment.

  4. Harvey says:

    I was all set to dismiss this post, but then I thought of the neighboring communities of Lake View and Uptown in Chicago.

    Lake View has long been a destination for young people, specifically young white people. It includes Wrigleyville and Boystown, and has mostly been taken over by the bro demographic. Naturally some black people want to live in a ‘fun’ neighborhood like Lake View (4 percent as of the last Census) and it has the white population freaking out. It should be noted that most of Lake View, especially Wrigleyville, is a post-college pit stop with high population turnover and residents that are drawn mainly from outside Chicago city and often out-of-state.

    Uptown has a long-standing reputation as a seedy neighborhood, and the new residents pushing up from Lake View have been decidedly antagonistic. Everyone poor is a ‘thug,’ especially if they’re black. The new arrivals are plotting out in the open how to get rid of them. The new alderman, a close ally of Rahm, has been making a concerted effort to shut down the social services and low-income housing that many Uptown residents depend on. The tension is palpable and the mood is mean.

    If you want to hear the other side of the argument, the siege mentality of the poor rich white people, you can check out these sites for Lake View and Uptown respectively:

    http://crimeinboystown.blogspot.com
    http://www.uptownupdate.com

  5. John Morris says:

    “East Harlem increasingly isn’t East Harlem anymore. Areas that were flop houses only a decade ago are now market rate with major new investment.”

    Right- so potentially the next area can build up. There is no rule that there can’t be many areas like that.

    The huge problem is about constraining supply. Major new investment doesn’t automatically mean removal of old residents.

    NYC, has rent control and other policies that constrain the supply of affordable housing.

    The revolting thing is the attitude of white hipsters invading places like Williamsburg & Greenpoint and then trying to slam the door on everyone else with zoning & height limits.

  6. John Morris says:

    Even though many of the original artists and hipsters invaded Williamsburg by breaking zoning laws.

  7. wkg in bham says:

    Re (Washington): “What’s telling about the zip code’s “new build” makeover is that it did not move the poverty needle. The zip code’s poverty rate is exactly what it was in 1980, 1990 and 2000 — 28 percent — and the child poverty rate is nearly twice what it was in 1990 (45 percent).” I would appear that working and middle class blacks (primarily families I would think) are moving away. Lacking any data, I’m going to assume that most of the white arrivals are singles or DINKs.

    My memory of the situation is that while Chicago had strong growth in the core area, the city as a whole, lost population in the 2000-2010 interval. I’m thinking this is another case of black working and middle class families leaving the city.

    Here’s my guess as to why this happening. These two cities are basically family hostile (regardless of race). Primary issue would be the public schools. Public safety in many parts of the cities also a big issue. Also would conclude that the poor aren’t going anywhere – weather this is a lacks of means or a preference, I can’t say.

  8. John Morris says:

    The funny (or not funny) thing here is that cities like Cleveland seem to be seeing this kind of big shift. I mean, this is a city with more than enough space near the core to house a broad range of people.

  9. John Morris says:

    My main rule is that government should first do no harm in all interventions- which usually means make no interventions at all.

    It’s absurd to say that gentrification or displacement of any type will never happen but policies like “free roads”, parking minimums, eminent domain abuse, height limits, historic districting & subsidized mortgages have worked to increase racial & class division.

    Jane Jacobs warned about the danger of gradual money and cataclysmic money. One of the strongest arguments against zoning is that it often freezes communities in place- forcing either gentrification through displacement or cataclysmic disruption (Waterfront Williamsburg, Atlantic Yards) when the law is changed.

    I might mourn the replacement of a historic home in Shadyside with an apartment building, but I would be much more upset at the loss of social character of a place that can accept lots of different people.

  10. wkg in bham says:

    Re: While some contend the title hyperbolic, the HuffPost lead, if not the strike down itself, reflects the reality of a country still tethered to its discriminatory past.

    But later in the article:

    “For example, much of Chicago’s core gains comes from the downtown zip code 60654, in which 11,499 (77%) of the area’s 14,868 incoming residents were white, and where the median family income is $151,000. Other zip codes in Chicago’s core share similar proportions of growth, such as 60605, with 70% of its 12,423 new residents being white”.

    Thus: 23% non-white for Zip 60654 and 30% non-white for Zip 60605. That doesn’t sound like racial discrimination to me.

    Then we have: “Philadelphia’s downtown zip code 19123 grew its population by nearly 40%, and its proportion of whites increased from 25% to almost 50%. In D.C., the growing core zip code of 20001 increased its white share from 6% to 33% in a mere 10 years. While in Brooklyn, the zip codes 11205 and 11206 showed similar growth dynamics, with overall gains of 15% and 18% respectively, and corresponding increases in the white share of approximately 30%”.

    In all four zips cited, there was more (racial) diversity. Probably a lot more economic diversity also.

  11. John Morris says:

    11205 is Fort Greene, home to large African American upper middle class. 11206 is East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

    Sadly, in East Williamsburg, the response of many artists and hipsters has been to move in and then demand that they stop allowing big new apartment buildings- while complaining about gentrification. I got mine, who cares about the next guy.

    A really big factor in 11205 is the conversion of industrial to residential- which creates a net housing gain.

    As a whole, places like this are the answer. There are just not enough of them.

  12. John Morris says:

    I mean a really big factor in 11206, East Williamsburg.

  13. Matthew hall says:

    It’s interesting that Aaron used an image from Columbus Underground. I can’t imagine a place in which the displacement of the poor and ‘ethnic’ is less of an issue than Columbus.

  14. John Morris says:

    From Aaron’s “We Had To Destroy The City in Order to Save it” post.

    http://www.urbanophile.com/2014/03/02/we-had-to-destroy-the-city-in-order-to-save-it/

    “To materially boost the number of units in an era in a manner that moderates prices in a highly desirable place like San Francisco would require massive changes in the built environment of its neighborhoods. This would radically transform the character and nature of the city in question. If San Francisco were really covered in skyscrapers, it would cease to be San Francisco— a city of low-rise buildings framed by hills that would be obscured by high rises. There may well be the same geography on the map labeled as such, but it would be a completely different place. We would have to destroy the city in order to save it.”

    Is a city with almost no organic art scene, no Chinatown, no Castro, no art galleries etc… really San Francisco either even if it physically looks the same?

    Would that be worse than some “ruined views”?

    San Francisco is an extreme case- terminally ill as a real place. Obviously a huge amount of the fault for this goes to development patterns outside the city.

  15. Pat says:

    There is no Brooks Brothers located in the Washington DC zip code of 20001. This area is hardle as gentrified as these articles might suggest. Not by a long shot.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The article references “people of means wanting to be in cities is largely the same people who always had means, and they are simply taking their means from one geography to the next; that is, from the suburban development to the urban enclave” – but cites neighborhoods where the white population has increased to between 30 to 50%. That hardly seems to meet the definition of an “enclave” – especially when these residents may have moved from suburban areas that were 95 to 98% white. Equating this with “white flight” doesn’t make sense.

    I think the gentrification that is occurring in Washington, New York City, San Francisco, Boston, or Seattle, is pretty much irrelevant to cities that are not so blessed to be the focus of huge urban investment and the US, financial, high tech or global elite. In legacy cities in the Midwest, I think it’s okay if gentrification and downtown revitalization provides nothing beyond stability and a halting of decline. I don’t see why it needs to solve poverty as well or be viewed as some type of failure. Revitalization in some of the legacy cities is pretty ridiculously challenging. Focus the flaws of gentrification discussion on the global elite cities.

    I think that efforts are being made (at least in some cities) to revitalize non-gentrifying neighborhoods, in addition to revitalizing downtown. Milwaukee has dozens of programs focused on revitalizing or at least stabilizing the most distressed residential areas. Two of the city’s longest and most challenging brownfield revitalization projects have been specifically focused on areas within poorer neighborhoods with the primary goal to attract manufacturing jobs or other business with high job densities and offering family supporting wages for existing residents in those areas. The Century City project – an 87-acre former auto parts plant acquired by the City in 2009 with $35 million public investment to date is focused on an area where the neighboring census tracts have 97-98% minority population and about 50% poverty rate. The Menomonee Valley project has been focused on about a 2000-acre area that has 80% minority and 40% poverty rate.

  17. Chris Barnett says:

    This is a real issue in community development circles.

    Because we tend to look at a geography over time, we “see” that a neighborhood has “improved” when the unemployment and poverty rates are down, median income and housing values are up, and the neighborhood becomes more diverse in income and ethnicity.

    But if we actually follow the lower-income people in the neighborhood, they are probably just displaced to the next ring of older housing unless we deliberately preserve some low-mod income units. Their individual lives are not necessarily improved unless they happen to have a skill set important in a gentrifying area (construction skills, mowing/landscape or cleaning business, small neighborhood eatery or other shop).

  18. John Morris says:

    So the evil, “right wing” racist South holds more attraction and opportunity for blacks than the wonderful non-racist North? Fancy that.

    The story “liberal” elites tell themselves has always been a lot more complicated.

  19. Chris Barnett says:

    John, people don’t move south for a better climate. They move south for jobs and family. :)

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist jumping a thread.

  20. Racaille says:

    “The story “liberal” elites tell themselves has always been a lot more complicated.”

    You mean like the GOP’s “big tent”

    Furthermore, from the article:

    “Still, any migration of significance will have at least some implications. One could be to boost the Democratic Party, as large numbers of middle-class African-Americans return to predominantly Republican states. Yet their influx could bring new tensions to the party as well: According to the University of Alabama’s Giggie, many of the migrants come with a “Northern-inflected liberalism” that may nudge Democrats across the region, traditionally fairly conservative, leftward.”

    Nice one…and good luck.

  21. John Morris says:

    The bottom line is they decided to leave the wonderful non racist place where liberal governments tear down their neighborhoods for parking and sports stadiums or isolate them on hurricane exposed barrier Islands like Coney Island & Far Rockaway.

    http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/2012/11/sandy-and-far-rockaway-another-tragedy.html

    Not saying this didn’t also happen in the South. I’m saying it’s complicated.

  22. John Morris says:

    Moreover, the basic apparatus of urban renewal (negro removal) was set up by The Democratic Party at a time when it was still home to the KKK.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_Act_of_1949

    “The American Housing Act of 1949 (Title V of P.L. 81-171) was a landmark, sweeping expansion of the federal role in mortgage insurance and issuance and the construction of public housing. It was part of President Harry Truman’s program of domestic legislation, the Fair Deal.”

    I wonder what might happen if the Federal Government gave local mayors in the South masses of cash and eminent domain powers to “clear slums” & “improve their downtowns”?
    Not surprisingly the mayors decided removing blacks from their core neighborhoods was a priority.

    Obama actually gave his “You didn’t build that” speech in Roanoke Virginia where a black community was destroyed for a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

  23. wkg in bham says:

    The issue at hand is the situation in urban underclass neighborhoods that just happen to be overwhelmingly black. The problem is the “underclass” part of the description, not the “black” part of it. The presence of some white gentrifiers is not going to do anything about the real problem. I don’t know what to do about the problem; I don’t think anybody does. Hell, you can get yourself in a jam just pointing out that there is a problem. On an individual level, most deal with problem by moving away. Witness the mass abandonment of perfectly good (in a physical sense) neighborhoods in Chicago or Detroit.

  24. John Morris says:

    “The problem is the “underclass” part of the description, not the “black” part of it. The presence of some white gentrifiers is not going to do anything about the real problem. I don’t know what to do about the problem.”

    The first thing might to admit that many of the things one has been doing like funding free highways & disrupting social bonds through forced relocations has made things worse. Better yet, one could admit that many of the people promoted these programs may have been racist.

    The “war on poverty” might be better described as the war on family or the war on community or the war on urban small business or the war on civil society. No surprise crime rates surged as it kicked in.

    The great hidden secret in American history is how well many dense urban communities once functioned.

  25. John Morris says:

    It sort of does take a village- but the government tore it down.

  26. wkg in bham says:

    John, agree with you totally.
    I think I didn’t think through the gentrification issue enough.

    There’s the case where white hipsters invade a solid, functional black working class neighborhood. If I’m a black home or condo owner, I’d have mixed feelings about it. If I can double or triple the value of the house, I can cash in and move to another good neighborhood. Of course I’m going to have to put up with these insufferable pricks until I can get out.

    If I’m a renter it’s a no win. I’m looking at some pretty hefty rent increases and put up and the ruination of the neighborhood.

  27. John Morris says:

    Chris Barnett said,

    “But if we actually follow the lower-income people in the neighborhood, they are probably just displaced to the next ring of older housing unless we deliberately preserve some low-mod income units. Their individual lives are not necessarily improved unless they happen to have a skill set important in a gentrifying area (construction skills, mowing/landscape or cleaning business, small neighborhood eatery or other shop).”

    At least in NYC, this is absolutely the dynamic at work. Just walking around a place like the “new improved” Fort Greene, one can see more retail, more coffee shops (Including lots of trendy black owned businesses), jobs etc… and things are vastly better in terms of crime. The flip side however is that many of the locals who got some of these jobs find they don’t pay enough to live in the neighborhood or probably even near it.

    No doubt at all that career wise, I might have earned at least 20,000 more a year by living in NY and better keeping up with social contacts. However, It costs me far more to stay there so I got a raise by leaving.

  28. urbanleftbehind says:

    #27 Wkg,

    That has been the Chicago NW side (Humboldt Park, Logan Square) Puerto Rican’s dilemna for the past 40 years or so also. Stick around until the house triples in value, sell it to move to a far suburb or to Florida, or at a minimum sell and buy or rent in a lower density/lower cost bungalow belt community on the SW or far SE side of Chicago.

  29. John Morris says:

    I tweeted @MarketUrbanism hoping he might comment on this thread.

  30. wkg in bham says:

    Reflecting even more on this whole gentrification thing. Considered a black working class neighborhood; one that is 100% black. Ask anyone who lives there and they’ll tell you it is one fine neighborhood. And it is. It’s certainly one that doesn’t need “fixing”. A having a band of hipsters move is certainly not making it “better”. I’m thinking what a city really needs are a diversity of neighborhoods, not a lot of neighborhoods that are diverse.

    John keep’s pointing out that some cities, for example San Francisco, have squeezed out working class neighborhoods – regardless of the ethnic type.

  31. John Morris says:

    IMHO, I think I have a little knowledge cause I grew up in a really great working class/ middle class neighborhood called Woodside in Queens. Later we “upgraded” to Forest Hills.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodside,_Queens

    NYC, certainly seemed to be creating these kinds of places pretty well at least through the 1950’s. It still sort of does, but mostly cause people do everything they can to break the zoning laws and employment restrictions. The grey economy fills all the gaps it can.

    Pittsburgh is really in an affordable, livable sweet spot right now for lots of people. I hope it can last/ adopt as the city changes.

  32. John Morris says:

    “Considered a black working class neighborhood; one that is 100% black. Ask anyone who lives there and they’ll tell you it is one fine neighborhood.”

    I think partly because of housing discrimination, many of the old black neighborhoods were often not all poor. Middle & professional class people were integrated into the neighborhood. Often they lived a few blocks away on a “fancy street”.

    Great images of Pittsburgh’s Hill District & other communities in Pittsburgh.
    http://teenie.cmoa.org/

    Fort Greene (12005) certainly hasn’t been all working class in many years, if it ever was. The housing stock of classic Brownstones has housed upper & middle class African Americans for years.

    One thing urban renewal did was to drive the upper & middle class groups out of the neighborhoods. Even if they wanted to stay, they saw the writing on the wall and had the ability to move. This loss of social capital was very damaging.

    As to the hipsters- many of them are themselves refugees from other gentrifying areas. What crosses the line is moving into an area and then trying to lock the door behind by restricting more development- forcing out the old residents.

  33. Lou says:

    18 of 33 comments are John Morris’s. Im impressed. Hijacking a comments section time and time again is very impressive…. also hurts his case by sounding like a nutjob.

  34. Tone says:

    Lou, a nutjob with a huge inferioity complex.

  35. Chris Barnett says:

    wkg wrote “I’m thinking what a city really needs are a diversity of neighborhoods, not a lot of neighborhoods that are diverse.”

    I’m thinking the same.

    This is probably also true of building type and use within a neighborhood: every city building does not have to be “mixed use” with ground-floor commercial, offices on the second floor, and condos or apartments above as per N’Urbanist fantasy. There’s already too much commercial and office space in many places (thank you high-speed internet and Amazon).

    [This next comment applies to non-megacity neighborhoods, not Manhattan or the Loop or the downtown of any large city:] As long as a block or small group of blocks has some single-family, some multi-family, some mixed-use buildings, and a corner commercial node, the neighborhood will function as a “mixed use” one. I know it’s hard to believe, but some people actually like “quiet streets” close to, but not quite in the middle of, the action of a city.

  36. Chris Barnett says:

    Diversity everything…residents and uses…is so analog.

    I’m arguing for digital approximation, what you might call “pointillist Urbanism”. Maybe from less than 30,000 feet up, but from higher than ground level, the picture is appropriately diverse and mixed-use. Something like those portraits made up of thousands of pictures of faces. Does this make sense?

    This concept would allow for shifts and change over time, allowing a neighborhood to change and renew itself, but would still keep some barriers to harshly-contrasting and non-neighborly uses (i.e. significantly more-dense or more-intense uses) in certain zones.

    So, yes, John…maybe a block (rather than a whole neighborhood) could and should swing the door shut for a while until there is enough pressure for big change.

  37. John Morris says:

    “So, yes, John…maybe a block (rather than a whole neighborhood) could and should swing the door shut for a while until there is enough pressure for big change.”

    Certainly, a lot of NYC & San Francisco’s current problem came from blocking gradual change. If Downtown Brooklyn had done big residential sooner, there would have been a lot less pressure on Fort Greene’s quite brownstone streets.

    SF is a special case. A small hilly city like that probably can’t absorb all the urban demand in the region.

  38. John Morris says:

    “So, yes, John…maybe a block (rather than a whole neighborhood) could and should swing the door shut for a while until there is enough pressure for big change.”

    Certainly, a lot of NYC & San Francisco’s current problem came from blocking gradual change. If Downtown Brooklyn had done big residential sooner, there would have been a lot less pressure on Fort Greene’s quite brownstone streets.

    SF is a special case. A small hilly city like that probably can’t absorb all the urban demand in the region.

  39. D. Venable says:

    This article is real depressing in that it without question assumes that replacing black residents with whites is good. What could be more racist than this?
    Since Mr. Renn is familiar with Louisville, I will point out that the gentrification of Old Louisville did not displace black people. Butchertown gentrification did not displace black people, as the neighborhood had been a largely white slum for decades.
    There has to be huge tracts of Chicago that are peopled by low income white folks.
    Using race as a marker for poverty and badness is not good thinking, but it certainly is American.

  40. urbanleftbehind says:

    The poorest whites in Chicago proper are recently arrived hipsters, with the next lowest being lower-paid City workers in the edges of the Bungalow Belt. In terms of personal and household income, Chicago proper does not really have what would be called “low income white folks”. They tend to appear a good (at least 20 miles) from the Loop in any number of farther out suburbs that are also attractive to hispanic and “lower” asian immigrants, and to some degree, blacks (who I would say might be tolerated better than hispanics due to their contributions to H.S. athletics). The “better” halves of older collar cities – Waukegan, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Elgin, Round Lake, the upper half of DuPage County and parts of SE Wisconsin and NW Indiana come to mind. That isnt to say that there was not a restive period where there was such a contingent did not exist – from the late 1950s and winding down in the early 1990s white “pride” gang activity among moderate and low income whites was quite noticeble – check out this website about “Stone Greasers” – http://www.stonegreasers.com/greaser

  41. John Morris says:

    “This article is real depressing in that it without question assumes that replacing black residents with whites is good. What could be more racist than this?”

    I’m not really getting that vibe from this post & I think Richey Piiparinen has a point. In city after city blacks often lived near downtowns and city after city somehow (with federal help) managed to come up with a plan to remove them. Newark, Detroit, Hamtrack, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Roanoke, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta & Kansas City are just a few. Highways, light opera, baseball stadiums, hospital construction and parking were just some of the excuses.

    Yes, many but not all lived in dense, “sub standard housing”, but a huge chicken & egg problem emerges. Housing was sub standard, partly because bankers & investors knew public authorities wanted to remove them. In most cases any replacement housing was put somewhere else.

    Now, after the areas have been cleansed- the area is marketed to upper income renewal.

  42. David Holmes says:

    Milwaukee is commonly cited as being among the most segregated urban areas, and is also a region that has experienced significant revitalization of urban areas over the past 30 years. Milwaukee’s inner ring suburbs present an interesting example, as many (such as West Allis, West Milwaukee, South Milwaukee, and Cudahy) were industrial suburbs that contained massive industrial plants that shut down in the 1970s-1990s, resulting in significant blight. All of the inner ring suburbs (industrial and predominantly residential suburbs such as Shorewood) suffered some level of physical decline during the era of suburban sprawl and shift of growth to second ring or outer suburbs. And yet, as this physical decline was occurring, the population of these inner ring suburbs remained overwhelmingly white (i.e., 98 to 99% non-Hispanic white)up through 1980.

    Over the past several decades, these inner ring suburbs have all had significant success in transforming 100’s of acres of brownfields into new commercial, office, and multi-family developments. In terms of race, it was not until this renewal was underway that the population began diversifying. As of 2010, the non-white population has increased in nearly all of these inner ring suburbs to typical ranges of 10 to 20% (and as high as 80% in some parts of West Milwaukee).

    This would appear to be an example of renewal of working class neighborhoods for working class families without gentrification, and with the primary “displacement” being working class whites displaced by working class Hispanics, African American, and Asian residents.

    Although the “gentrification” narrative presented in the article may have validity, I think that there is too much focus on the dynamics occurring in the elite cities – and not enough attention focused on alternative and more interesting dynamics occurring in other cities such as Milwaukee.

  43. wkg in bham says:

    I think the whole narrative got off on the wrong foot when the main article opened with reference to the voting rights act and use of the word “segregation”.

    I find clumping up of racial/cultural groups by class to perfectly natural. This is not a hatred of the “other”, but comfort with one’s own kind. All neighborhoods, regardless or class or race are “good” neighborhoods. There is one exception to this and that is the underclass neighborhood. This is a neighborhood that is toxic. Anything that you can do to rid yourself of this blight is OK by me. In a perfect world you could rehabilitate the neighborhood. In real life you can’t. The best you can do is to make the problem go somewhere else – but again in real life, the most realistic action is to take yourself somewhere else.

  44. John Morris says:

    @wkg in bham

    “The poorest whites in Chicago proper are recently arrived hipsters, with the next lowest being lower-paid City workers in the edges of the Bungalow Belt.”

    That’s generally what happened in NYC. The first gentrifiers in Williamsburg & Bushwick were artists & students pushed out of Manhattan. Fort Greene had some of the same movement, mixed with wealthier people seeking classic brownstones but a good number of those people were black.

    “Chicago proper does not really have what would be called “low income white folks””

    I think it certainly used to. It was the end of the great hillbilly highway from Appalachia.

    http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/January-2012/Chicagos-Hillbilly-Problem-During-the-Great-Migration/

  45. Chris Barnett says:

    “Chicago proper does not really have what would be called “low income white folks””

    “I think it certainly used to. It was the end of the great hillbilly highway from Appalachia”

    I suspect that of the “northern” cities today, urban low-income white Appalachian-American folks live mostly in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, the ACY metro, and Pittsburgh. Probably there are still some in the Flint/Saginaw Bay cities. This obviously ignores Kentucky and West Virginia, Southern border states.

    Determining Appalachian origin is largely anecdotal…I don’t think the Census tracks it through ACS unless there is a special table buried deep in their website.

    Aaron has twice run a post on this topic:
    http://www.urbanophile.com/2013/05/05/replay-parallel-societies/

    Re-reading that post, it is kind of a counterpoint to this guest post: Aaron didn’t find tremendous displacement happening in Fountain Square (Indy) when the “artization” started.

  46. Harvey says:

    Chicago had a ton of low-income white folks. There are still some kicking around Uptown, for one. And they’re the last people to linger around the old neighborhood after the sort of white-flight-lite process that replaces “white” people with Mexican-Americans; I’ve noticed this in particular in McKinley Park.

    I honestly don’t know what happened to Chicago’s poor white people. I do know the neighborhoods they used to live in have been mostly flattened, like Little Italy, or gentrified, like Wicker Park or the Near North Side’s “Little Hell” neighborhood. I guess they didn’t just move to the next neighborhood because they ran into a wall of fully-occupied middle-class housing. And mostly they refused to move to black neighborhoods. So maybe they went to the south suburbs, or Florida?

  47. Harvey says:

    Indiana! They went to Indiana, I think…

  48. John Morris says:

    “Re-reading that post, it is kind of a counterpoint to this guest post: Aaron didn’t find tremendous displacement happening in Fountain Square (Indy) when the “artization” started.”

    Yes, its a really good counterpoint post.

  49. Nathanael says:

    It does seem that there is a trend of rich people moving back downtown and forcing poorer people out to the suburbs. A pretty unpleasant trend since suburban poverty is worse than urban poverty.

    But there’s only one thing to do about it: reduce inequality so that people aren’t as poor!

    Paul Krugman has been talking about the inequality problem.

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