Part I: Gentrification in Detroit? Experts disagree
Cross-posted at the Michigan Messenger:
With Compuware, Quicken Loans and other businesses setting up in Detroit, the city’s downtown is experiencing what some would consider an economic renaissance. While these developments give the city much-needed economic activity, experts disagree as to whether these changes could have a negative impact on neighborhoods in the form of gentrification.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, gentrification is “The restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people.” Based on this definition, George Galster, Clarence B. Hilberry Professor of Urban Affairs at Wayne State University, claims that gentrification is not happening in Detroit. Galster told the Michigan Messenger: “The areas where you see higher income people moving in, such as the Woodward Corridor, Waterfront, Jefferson Village, or Woodward Place in Brush Park — those places have very few people living there, if anybody, so I don’t count that as gentrification. Now it may be that is some other kind of word, but it’s not gentrification.”
But Margaret Dewar, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, told the Michigan Messenger: “Gentrification is happening a little bit in the Midtown area, specifically in Woodbridge and the Cass Corridor near Wayne State.” The Woodbridge area in particular was previously home to the Jeffries Projects until it was replaced by Woodbridge Estates, where prices for townhomes are between $179,000 and $274,000.
Dewar went on to describe that the signs that gentrification is happening include: “considerable increase in property values in an area where property values were not very high to begin with; a large number of apartments issued for rehab or substantial repair; and changing demographics of residents that have higher household incomes and tend to hold professional or managerial positions.”
Higher household incomes provide their own set of benefits, as Galster explains, “Gentrification is an economic boom to the city that it occurs in because the in-movers pay more taxes than the original population and they often bring with them stimulation for local businesses to develop. Industries can develop around these gentrified neighborhoods and that increases tax revenues for the city, increases job opportunities, and stimulates physical improvement of the area.”
The downside to gentrification is that low-income people are often forced by higher rents and property values to relocate and Galster describes that “The city is under no obligation to help re-house them or help pay for their moving costs so they can certainly lose big time in a gentrification process.”
As the downtown area continues to develop with more businesses and retail, the problems of gentrification will become more acute if the city is not vigilant in developing and enforcing policies to minimize the negative ramifications. In the second part of this series, I will investigate if and how gentrification has impacted the Woodbridge area and conclude with a piece detailing the city’s efforts to ensure that the negative aspects of gentrification are minimized.