All Articles Tagged "urban redevelopment"

Is “Redevelopment” Of A City Really Just A Fancy Word For Gentrification?

October 7th, 2015 - By Deja Jones
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Newark PF


Urban development is something that has always been at the top of the political agenda for many cities ridden with crime, poverty and homelessness. Most would see redevelopment as a way to tackle some of these issues. With the redevelopment of downtown Newark, Jersey City, parts of New York City, D.C., Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans, some people are excited. But some of the long-standing residents of these cities fear that what is really going on is gentrification that will leave many displaced in their own towns.

Almost a decade ago, I moved to the city of Newark to start my new life and go to school. Although my college campus was a sumptuous place, downtown Newark, and its surrounding areas, were a totally different place, an entirely different story. Moving to Jersey’s largest metropolitan city from Trenton, the state’s capital, I saw it as me moving from one ‘hood to a larger ‘hood. It had the same city aesthetics with the homeless loitering in front of stores, the thugs lurking the streets, petty crimes, homicide. The usual. And yet, there I was on a pretty campus smack in the center of it all being warned not to stray too far from the “safe zone.” But I often did.

Back then, the downtown area was an urban mecca of Black and Indian-owned businesses, pawn shops, chicken shacks, Dr. Jay’s stores and other urban wear and sneaker shops. It felt like I never left home. Newark was great to me, but the truth was that it had never recovered from the riots of the ’60s. And with all its White and upper-class residents fleeing to the surrounding cities of Maplewood and South Orange, Newark became an oasis for the lower class.

Today, Newark, N.J., home of the New Jersey Devils, Prudential Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), has seen a vast transformation. In the last four years, luxury lofts, artisan restaurant chains, a growing nightlife and a charter school system have all popped up. It’s also seen a mass migration of what some would consider the “hipster” Whites inhabiting the downtown area. Living in a neutral area, I take the bus to the South Ward for work every day, a place considered to be the worst part of Newark. It doesn’t take long on my bus route to see the city go from lofts, fancy restaurants and a tourist area to the slums with vacant, boarded-up housing.  It’s unsettling.

There have been many debates about the changes in Newark. Some believe that the revitalization of the city, or “Newark 3.0” as they call it, could potentially cause more harm to those who live within a particular means on the socioeconomic ladder. Some even question if Newark is becoming more and more like Brooklyn with the redesign of Military Park and the establishment of Hotel Indigo and Teacher’s Village apartments. A change has come, and not everyone is happy about it.

As a young professional, it leaves me at a crossroads. On the one hand, I think that the beautification and redevelopment of the city of Newark will help to create more job opportunities thanks to the increase in businesses. It will increase the city’s population, improve the overall well-being of Newark and expand the resources offered. However, as someone who identifies with lower-paid working-class citizens, there is the risk of isolating a particular demographic, and that could produce high concentrations of crime and poverty. And, of course, when city value increases, so do rent prices and taxes. It makes me wonder how much worse Newark is going to get on the other side of the tracks. Already, housing developments are being shut down due to them being deemed unlivable. Public school buildings are at capacity due to several institutions sharing one building. Community centers and organizations are going out of business. Yes, change has come indeed, but it’s not a good change for everyone.

Even though Newark is rebuilding for the first time post-riots, what about the people in the areas off of the radar? I understand that the alleged agenda is to revive the city, but what are the costs that come with that? Is revitalization really just a fancy euphemism for gentrification?

In East New York Where Economic Opportunity Is Lacking, [re]New Lots Is A Marriage of Art & Commerce

April 14th, 2015 - By Lauryn Stallings
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Photo by The Inspired Storytellers Collective - Jeyhoun Allebaugh (photographer) for the Brooklyn Community Foundation

Photo by The Inspired Storytellers Collective – Jeyhoun Allebaugh (photographer) for the Brooklyn Community Foundation

For years, if the culturally curious were adventurous enough to take the L train to the New Lots Avenue stop, they’d exit the station to find, well, nothing. But if fearless hipsters make the same journey next week, they’ll find [re]New Lots, a business development incubator and marketplace envisioned by Catherine Green.

Adjacent to an unwelcoming train station two stops from the end of one of Brooklyn’s crosstown lines is [re]New Lots Market and Artist Incubator. Fourteen shipping containers have transformed two formerly blighted 10,000-square foot lots, offering a pop-up commercial development to a community starved for creative spaces and economic growth.

Green, whose background is in retail management and arts, already had experience in vacant lot restoration projects when she submitted the proposal to develop 170 New Lots Avenue. She is spearheading the initiative through her organization ARTs East New York in partnership with New York City Economic Development Council.

[re]New Lots offers an innovative approach to commerce: artists can snap up storefronts at reduced rates, retailers and eateries at reduced rates for qualified applicants. The short-term leases — $400 monthly for a midsized repurposed freight bin — are offered to small and established businesses who applied through AENY.

“I always knew that I wanted a diverse retail mix,” says Green.

To draw a variety of consumers, AENY selected seven dining and retail vendors to occupy the majority of a dozen smaller containers at [re]New Lots. One of those containers will also house a tutoring service. Although the educational element may at first seem out of place in a maze of shopping and eating, Green has a specific reason for its inclusion.

“In a market like this, you need a business that will attract foot traffic,”  says Green. It is her belief that Hidden Talents Tutoring will stimulate support for the other vendors at [re]New Lots by creating regular activity in the market.

reNew Lots render

A rendering of the [re]New Lots facility.

The component of the concept that has the most potential for community engagement, might be the four artist studios.

Green and her team had a simple and specific criteria for the visuals artists who receive unlimited access to the glass-fronted shipping containers at a mere $300 monthly rent. Applicants needed to be not only socially conscious, but also have an interest in youth development and community-involved work.

One such artist is Sophia Dawson, whose work with Artistic Noise alone is evidence that her passions align with Green’s vision.

The artist has shown in Los Angeles with features at the Brooklyn Museum and Corridor Gallery. When Lauren Adelman, a co-founder of Artistic Noise who as worked with AENY in the past, informed Dawson of the project, she applied for a surprisingly practical reason.

“It’s close to home,” says Dawson, who found she painted the most when working out of her garage.

While proximity was certainly an advantage for the East New York project over more traditionally considered venues, it was not the determining factor. Dawson, who is often commissioned for work in areas such as Harlem and Park Slope, says the opportunity to make an impact in her own community was also important.

“I come back home and I haven’t really done anything here,” says Dawson.

That will soon change. Each vendor — small businesses and artists alike — will take part in AENY’s Young Artist Initiative.

Working with Nick Savvides, YAI program director, Dawson plans to merge her personal practice with her idea for the community project: a sculpture garden. Dawson, whose primary medium is paint, did her first sculpture piece just two months ago, and while she’s nervous, she’s not at all deterred.

“We have so much work to do,” Dawson says of her optimistically ambitious plans. “I hope I don’t scare them but I’m going to take advantage of the extra hands.”

When complete, Dawson plans to unveil an installation with a sound component and, of course, painting. “We’re going to incorporate different stories from different people in this community, honoring the different stories,” she says. “Their stories are a reflection of the neighborhood.”

As part of [re]New Lots mission to address the lack of economic opportunity of East New York, the marketplace will create a localized stimulus package, generating about 25 new jobs and an outlet to keeping money in the community. It will also address the needs of its vendors through the incubator held in partnership with the Local Development Corporation of East New York.

“I’ve partnered with LDC New York now for the past six years, and they’ve been amazing community partners,” says Green. “They do counseling for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, so it was easy for them to come in with their model and tweak it with some of my recommendations.”

Those changes include statistics and a detailed analysis of how each vendor operates.

“Both [the artists and small businesses] will be along the same track,” Green says.

In addition to treating the artists as vendors so they can sell directly to the public, LDC and Green have developed a curriculum that will teach them a useful professional skill set. The business development workshops will offer tools on social media marketing and how to effectively reach the client base.

“We’re giving them tools [on] how to better understand their numbers and how to track their figures,” Green says. She wants the vendors to be able to see slow days in the numbers and find tactics to counteract the decline.

“We’re looking at where they want to go. Each vendor, each artist gets a path, and we have one-on-one counseling for them to get them there,” says Green of the [re]New Lots incubator.

[re]New Lots Market is scheduled to stay in its current location until October. Four months later, it will re-open as pop-up in another city-owned lot as a continuation of the same initiative. Once that term is up, Green plans to uproot the market one last time, to a hopefully permanent third site. It’s a signature element in her vision to revitalize the area.

“[re]New Lots is more than just a vendor market, gallery and artists studio spaces,” Green says. “It’s actually a metamorphosis, not only for the organization but for the community. It has the potential to change the East New York neighborhood.”

[re]New Lots Market and Artist Incubator will open to the public 2 p.m., April 23. Normal business hours will begin April 24. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m, Monday to Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday.

Reassessing The Gentrification Debate: Is It All About Race or Just Economics?

December 16th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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By Brittany Hutson

Chris and Trey are brothers who grew up in mid-city New Orleans. Trey left home and became an attorney in New York City while Chris stayed behind and has long been dedicated to his neighborhood. But an impending building project is slated to transform their area, causing Chris anxiety about current residents being displaced because the new developments will be too expensive for people to live in. But Trey believes the impending change will be beneficial to the neighborhood.

The brothers are fictional characters yet their story resonates with an issue that is very real and is continuously stirring up controversial debates in cities across the nation, including Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Los Angeles’ Echo Park.

“Brothers from the Bottom” is a production currently being shown at the Billie Holiday Theater in Brooklyn that brings to light the issue of gentrification as it occurs in predominately African-American communities. The play parallels an ongoing partnership between Louisiana State University and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and their efforts to build a joint medical campus in downtown New Orleans, scheduled for completion in 2013. The campus will span across 70 acres within a national historic district that will force the demolition of at least a hundred houses and small businesses. Preservationists have voiced concerns about displacing residents and losing historic assets.

Playwright Jackie Alexander attempts to show through his production how the debate around gentrification can cause a rift between neighbors and family members, as evidenced through the characters of Chris and Trey, brothers who are on opposing sides.

Gentrification is defined as the process of neighborhood change that results in the replacement of lower income residents with higher incomes ones. It is a housing, economic and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital, according to the Center for Disease Control. The process shifts a neighborhood’s characteristics (i.e. racial/ethnic composition and household income) by adding new stores and creating desirable housing stock in neighborhoods previously run-down, due to crime, crumbling infrastructure, or otherwise.

It has long been associated with a strong racial component. Typically, lower income African Americans and/or Hispanics are the dominate residents in the neighborhoods that are slated for an upgrade. The outsiders (as they are commonly known) that begin to move into the neighborhood are believed to usually be higher income Caucasians. Nevertheless, studies over the last several years have reiterated that the causes of gentrification are not so black and white.

“It’s never the intent to get a certain group of people moved out of their homes,” says Barbara Becker, a dean at the University of Texas Arlington School of Urban and Public Affairs. “What happens is the housing stock that we find charming and wonderful and that everybody wants to live in is closer to the city. We’re also becoming more in tuned to being closer to our jobs so location becomes important, as well as the housing stock.”

She goes on to explain that when an influx of people moved to the suburbs during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the housing stock in metropolitan areas went down and over time, lower economic groups began to inhabit those areas.

Program Aims to Revitalize Neighborhoods

November 29th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Chicago Tribune) — At first blush, there aren’t many similarities between Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood and Grove Parc Plaza, a federally subsidized housing project six miles north in the Woodlawn neighborhood.  One was built more than 120 years ago to house factory workers; the other more than 40 years ago to assist low-income families. Both are now test cases of whether federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program dollars and other monetary incentives can entice homebuyers to open their wallets and reinvigorate communities whose storied days have long passed. And for both, the experiments require a long-range outlook at a time when private financing is tight and a pioneering spirit is in short supply.

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Urban ‘Greenprint’ Essential for City of Tomorrow

November 3rd, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Model D) — Mitchell Silver’s name might not ring a bell to the average person, but in the world of urban planning he’s quite the rock star. He’s the director of the planning department in Raleigh, North Carolina, and  president-elect of the American Planning Association. In his 25 years in the business, he’s been involved in in numerous notable projects, including a re-envisioning of Harlem’s riverfront and Jamaica Center in New York City as well as the revitalization of neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.   Silver was recently in Detroit for the Michigan Association of Planning conference that was held at the Renaissance Center October 20 to 23, and Model D had the chance to sit down with him at Starbucks for a little chat. We discussed the role of urban design in achieving social equity, national policies that can help aging industrial cities like Detroit, zoning and building codes, urban agriculture and the Detroit Works initiative among other topics.

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The New Harlem Renaissance

November 1st, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Crain’s) — On a recent Saturday night, a red carpet was rolled out on Frederick Douglass Boulevard near West 116th Street. Bright lights shone, West African music pulsed through the air and lanky models showed off a new collection of Africa-inspired clothing by Ibrahima Doukoure to mark his boutique’s third anniversary.  The scene was a far cry from the one on 116th Street when Guinean-born Mr. Doukoure arrived in Harlem from Rome 16 years ago. Then, he had to walk to 110th Street and Broadway just to find a bank. He had to lie to Yellow Cab drivers to get a ride home, telling them he was going to 110th and Central Park West.

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Atlanta ‘Test Bed’ for Reusing Urban Spaces

October 25th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Atlanta Journal Constitution) — For decades, metro Atlanta was known for its expansive and new development.  Georgia Tech, however, wants the region to be better known for innovative “urban infill,” what urban planners generally refer to as the redevelopment of industrial areas or land with previous uses.  Using several grants, the school is at the forefront of defining “urban infill” in a blueprint that could help other cities. It is starting with the former Ford plant, which has been proposed as an “aerotropolis,” or generally an area that thrives off nearby airport activity.

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