Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saint Louis Gentrification

I was digging around online looking for articles about the status of gentrification in Saint Louis, Missouri, my hometown. There isn't much, and of what I did find, there's nothing recent. Not looking good. In those articles/blogs that I looked at (the old ones), the idea of gentrification was being demonized, as simply a process that forces working-class populations out of their current neighborhoods. That's true: those with higher incomes must replace poor and working-class people as they leave their neighborhood for gentrification to really work. But to me, and to many of my peers, gentrification sounds like a really good thing, especially for St. Louis, a city that many readily describe as dying.

I can see how at first, gentrification may not seem like a win-win scenario. Rent prices rise, families can no longer afford to live in a neighborhood, one in which they may have lived comfortably for many years, and eventually they find themselves in a predicament to which relocation is the only solution. It sucks. But you know what sucks even more? The death of a city, firms choosing to relocate to other metropolitan areas with better reputations, and young adults choosing to start families in other cities with better school systems and safer streets. In my opinion, the on-going remixing of middle-class and upper-class with the working class is absolutely essential to the health of a city. At the moment, relative to other American cities, St. Louis features a dramatic segregation between the classes. Any St. Louis native can describe to you the difference between a typical North County citizen and a typical West County citizen. And weighing St. Louis County against St. Louis City? The difference in poverty rates, unemployment, and crime is shocking. Why is gentrification a bad thing for St. Louis? Are St. Louisans satisfied with high crime and a city that becomes a ghost-town at night?

I would like to see a St. Louis with good public schools and a bustling downtown. I'd like to know how far off it is, if it's possible at all. I want to know exactly what is needed to jump-start the gentrification of St. Louis. It would take more than a couple of billion-dollar companies, more than a few new condo developments. I'm going to look further to see if anyone with power/money has taken this issue to heart.

Photo: The Olive Street of 2010? I think we're gonna miss the deadline. Sorry 1910. (via)

EDIT! I didn't find any blogs that focus strictly on gentrification, but there are a few concerned about St. Louis urban planning: Dotage St. Louis, St. Louis / Elsewhere, Vanishing STL. All very good blogs.

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