July 5, 2018


American cities are reviving-but leaving the poor behind: The post-industrial U.S. "legacy" cities are experiencing a renaissance. But lower-income, majority-black enclaves are struggling more than ever. (EILLIE ANZILOTTI, 7/05/18, Fast Company)

The popular narrative of gentrification goes something like this: In cities, young, affluent college grads move into lower-income neighborhoods of color, and before long, coffee shops and hip boutiques start to replace older stores. It's not long before the real estate developers and agents follow and the rents skyrocket. This narrative is largely derived from cities like New York, D.C., and Seattle, where population growth-especially due to an influx of wealthy people-is far outstripping the housing supply, and essentially all neighborhoods are changing and becoming more expensive.

But cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which are the focus of Mallach's book, have only recently begun to welcome new residents. These new people were likely drawn, Mallach says, by jobs at the educational and medical institutions like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore that have slowly but surely replaced the manufacturing industries that anchored the cities in the past. Gentrification in these places is more gentle, and revolves around not displacing residents (because there were so few to begin with), but more around filling in gaps.

The movement of young people into Lawrenceville, for instance, brought a swath of new amenities and investment. While some, like a yoga studio, might prompt older residents to roll their eyes, Mallach writes, others, like better grocery stores and improved transit, offer fairly universal benefits. It's still affordable, because Pittsburgh is still affordable, and Mallach argues that if Lawrenceville hadn't experienced that initial influx of young residents, it may very well have declined: "The reality," he writes, "is that today most neighborhoods that don't survive, go downhill."

The latter situation, Mallach says, is something that low-income, majority-black neighborhoods in U.S. legacy cities are all too familiar with. And even as the cities around them draw buzz and New York Times culture pieces, and as the Lawrencevilles of the landscape start to turn around, they're unlikely to do the same. In American cities, race and poverty are inextricably linked, and in these post-industrial cities, as Mallach writes, "the revival is ignoring the poor."

Cities make fine business parks, entertainment complexes and temporary housing for young professionals, but no one else should live there--especially if they have children. Like Disneyworld, they should empty overnight.

Posted by at July 5, 2018 4:25 AM