Monday, June 3, 2013
HISTORIC PRESERVATION, GENTRIFICATION, AND PUBLIC SPACE
What is the relationship between historic preservation, gentrification and the public place? The knowledge on these three subject matters provides critical implications for actions to rejuvenate the inner city. Recent trends reveal decay in some inner cities and Detroit quickly comes to mind. Yet in the attempt to rejuvenate such decays, some complexities and challenges emerge.
It seems that cities in America at some point in their evolution experiences prosperity and at some time decay. Chicago offers a critical example in this perspective. This thus provides a gleam of hope that through appropriate interventions by urban planners these challenges can be mitigated. The increase in sub-urbanization and the movement of businesses and firms to the periphery of metropolitan areas or cities have left the inner city in these declining states. Middle income workers and the affluent members of society have moved to enjoy the peace and serenity of the outer area of cities leaving behind dwindling and deteriorating city downtowns. In addition, privacy and the availability of services that support family life are key examples of the factors that have influenced these movements.
To rejuvenate inner cities, several economic development strategies are initiated to improve the wellbeing and wealth of the city with the aim of attracting people and businesses. Construction of convention centers, sports facilities, shopping enclaves, hotels, restaurants and broader strategies of tourism development have been put in place to achieve these purposes (these have been discussed in earlier papers). Unfortunately, economic development interventions in the form of “urban regeneration, downtown revitalization, gentrification of inner-city neighborhoods, and the redevelopment of obsolete industrial sites all serve inherently the same purposes under various disguises: turning places into commodities” (Erendil and Ulusoy, 2002).
These actions come with consequences both negative and positive. In this paper, I turn my attention to another economic development strategy which has gained prominence in urban planning constellations; historic preservation. I discuss the critical subject of historic preservation and gentrification of the public space in cities. Similar to previous papers, the discussions have been made using literary materials that touch on the themes in question. Specifically, this paper examines the effects of urban space in relation to historic preservation, the issue of gentrification, and the role of governments in gentrification. In conclusion, I draw lessons for policy and urban planning decisions.
1.2 Historic Preservation
Every society has a history that characterizes the evolution of the people and their activities in space. This defines their identity and builds a fabric that connects them to a common reality of being. Cities have developed systems, values, attitudes and specialties that tell some story about them. Whether conflicts, technology and manufacturing, royalty or culture, these attributes manifests both in their buildings, food, music, dance and the overall urban landscape. In other words, every society has some form, proportion, structure, plan, style or material that underpins the general ideas of their urban space. These are structures that embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction (Smithsonian Institution Architectural History and Historic Preservation [SIAHHP], 2005). It is these attributes that advocates of historic preservation seem to conserve. In the broader sense, historic preservation encompasses “keeping safe from harm, avoiding injury, destruction or decay, or maintenance" (Black’s Law Dictionary, 1990). Historic preservation is seen by most authors like Jane Jacobs as preserving the niche and authenticity for most cities. This is the “look and feel” of a place as well as the social connectedness that the place inspires (Swaan 2004).
Yet it "is in some ways at odds with itself when an owner seeks to alter a historic building or landmark, or a developer sets out to build new construction within a historic district" (Black’s Law Dictionary, 1990). The drive of cities to modernity and the increase need to revitalize the inner city has presented daunting challenges to the endeavors aimed at historic preservation. The transitional periods that saw increases in the development of the inner city resulted in the corporate city development, big box stores, business district developments and the construction of other massive urban structures that change the urban space. According to Zukin (2010), “eventually the city as we knew it was gone.”
Several discussions on urban redevelopment still reveal the growth of massive structures in urban areas changing both the urban landscape and people composition. Cities have lost their authenticity as a larger than unusual number of buildings have been town down, replaced and renovated beyond recognition (Zukin 2010). For others, this may seem to be a creation of a new modern feel and a new sense of place. Despite the latter observation, more cites are becoming similar in look and feel. Unfortunately, in the drive to maintain some level of historic preservation, “efforts to avoid the standardization of the modern era have been caught in another trap of sameness and blandness, through the use of a very similar vocabulary in the appearance of those tourist-historic places to meet the expectations of the universal tourist industry (Philo and Kearns, 1993 cited in Erendil and Ulusoy, 2002). Intimations of change and pressure for it, unfortunately, have been developed over many years and have generally become the norm (Swaan, 2004).
Swaan (2004) provides a critical dimension to historic preservation that is very interesting. The author tries to find a middle way between modernity and history articulating that preservation “should not rule out additions, transformation".... and that "preservation of the ancient inner core should not be the preoccupation of the urban movement.” Thus, preservation and conservation should be complemented with the more recent neighborhoods like the construction of modern building buildings.
In the phase of this understanding, the Ankara Citadel project becomes relevant in this context. The area which attained new political prominences in the early 1900s has increasingly become the center of discussion on tourism development. Ankara Citadel and its vicinity have been focusing on changing the identity of the city to attract tourists to the area. With the introduction of income-generating and tourist-attraction facilities, the area is gradually changing although not in the direction city authorities are aiming for.
City authorities are aiming at restructuring its old form to a modern center by “integrating the Citadel with the rest of the city”…through a “complete transformation of the area into a tourist site. This means a major clearance of unsound buildings, pulling down the illegal additions, and changing the functions of buildings into restaurants, bars, art galleries, antique shops in the outer Citadel and mostly tourist accommodation in the inner Citadel” (Erendil and Ulusoy, 2002). As a result, the subject matter of the potential gentrifying effects of the inner-city neighborhoods has become obvious.
1.3 Gentrification and its Consequences
The main consequence of the changes in urban landscape especially when a distressed area is being rejuvenated is the issue of gentrification. However, there is no definite consensus as to what is meant by gentrification. Apparently different authors define the term differently (Levine, 2004). What is however obvious are the similarities in the definitions. Firstly, it is associated with urban development, private or public, that is aimed at revitalizing, and reviving, reinvesting, renovating, rehabilitating, renewing or upgrading a section of the city. Secondly, it relates to displacements or resettlement of a segment of the society (ibid).
The first aspect of the definition implies an improvement of a section of the city or actions that are aimed at improving a negative state in the city. Zukin (2004) explains that the issues of blight and slums have been eliminated as a result of gentrification thus cities are better today than probably in the early mid-1960s. Thus the question that emerges is, why the negative attribution to the positive intentions? Aka (2010) intimates there are positive effects that result from gentrification as well as negative effects.
Yet this does not warrant for interventions to increase the welfare of the city and some residences at the expense of others. Evidence reveals that original residents experience rises in rents which normally are beyond their means thereby driving them out of the gentrified area. In other case, these residents are forced to relocate without adequate compensations. However, the increased attention on its negativity stems probably out of the far reaching effects over the positive and several studies confirm this observation (Vigdor et al, 2000; Freeman and Braconi, 2004; and Slater, 2006). It is this challenge that has marred the potential of gentrification to inner city revitalization. Unfortunately, the other arguments have been the issue of destruction of cities’ authenticity. Gentrification have also had negative ramification for the culture of most cities (Criekingen, 2000).
Even though most often the action that induces gentrification is spear-headed by the private sector, there are evidences to suggest that city governments and national governments play critical roles in these ventures. Typical evidence is the urban renewal programs between 1945 and the mid-1970s in the United States. In situations where there are not the direct actors of gentrification, it is seen that there are the indirect forces of gentrification. In the case of Ankara Citadel, it is obvious that had it not been the delay in implementation, gentrification would have taken place with the municipal government taken the lead role. In China, evidence by Weinstein and Xuefei (2009) show how local government action have directly resulted in gentrification. In Philadelphia, Levine (2004) identifies how “government policy also served to reinforce developer-driven gentrification in the Spring Green neighborhood, which is close to the city’s museum district.”
As much as government can play a role perpetuating the negative effects of gentrification, it also has the potential for putting in place mechanisms that can actually mitigate the negativity of gentrification while at the same time optimizing the benefits of this intervention. By emphasizing participation, inclusion and transparency in the decision making process, these issues would emerge and government would demand from investors that this needs are met before projects can be initiated. This can therefore be a condition for providing incentives for projects. The role of participation and the broader action of button-up approaches is evident in the New York Skyline Project. “Indeed, what started out as a community-based campaign to convert an eyesore into an asset evolved into one of the most successful economic-development projects (McGeehan, 2011)? This has become a model of emulation for other cities in the United States (Shevory, 2011). What is important is not merely the economic importance it presents but the unique example as to how gentrification can be made beneficial for people as well as for historic preservation. In Germany, the “Federal Soziale Stadt (Social City) policy, directed at declining neighborhoods, emphasized citizens participation (planning with people), social inclusion (especially language and skills-based training to integrate the new immigrant groups into German society), cultural celebrations, and youth programs” (Levine, 2004).
To this end, national and local government can institute project legislations that specify the conditions that should be satisfied in relation to displacements and compensations whenever mega projects and similar project with such consequences are to be undertaken. Historic preservations components can be made key parts of these legislation and special grants set aside for such restoration and compensation as well as management of the negative consequences of gentrification. In this regard, a true responsible urbanism requires the same loving care for the inner cities, the intermediate areas as well as the people who are affected by these events (Sawn, 2004).
1.4 Summary of Key Findings, Implications and Conclusion
In all these, what has been critical is the process of planning. How is historic preservation promoted without inducing the negative effects of gentrification? What role should national and local governments play? How do planners make the process more participatory and bottom-up? Should the emphasis always be on modernization, preservation or a combination of the two? What policies and legislation can be promulgated to ensure that projects do not have dire consequences on people as well as cities? How should planners create a niche or authenticity for cities? And how should planners respond to local and tourist interests?
Overall, both quality and quantity in the delivery of interventions are fundamental for historic preservation and improving the welfare of citizens and visitors. Proposing a mixed physical and social structure for a less-regulated tourism raises the question of the separation between the public and private domains of life and the definition of boundaries between them (Erendil and Ulusoy, 2002) and this must be appreciated and managed.
The answers to these questions are not easy. The specific strategies to achieve this may seem daunting however the realization that planning actions have negative effects and it is the responsibility of urban planners and in the public interest to manage this is an appropriate goal to start with. This would thus initiate new roles for planners that would complement the basic functions of providing social amenities and ensuring access to affordable housing to meet present and future populations.
Aka, E. (2010). Gentrification and Socioeconomic Impacts of Neighborhood Integration and Diversification in Atlanta, Georgia http://www.nssa.us/journals/2010-35-1/pdf/35-1%2001%20Aka.pdf Accessed: 06/11/2012 22:17
Black’s Law Dictionary (1990), 6th ed. 1184-85
Erendil, A. and Z. Ulusoy (2002). Reinvention of tradition as an urban image: the case of Ankara Citadel. Environment and Planning D: Planning and Design, 29 (5), 2002, 655-72.
Lance Freeman & Frank Braconi (2004): Gentrification and Displacement New York City in the 1990s, Journal of the American Planning Association, 70:1, 39-52
Levine, M. A. Gentrification (2004). The case of Prenzlauer Berg (Berlin), Germany. Journal of Urban Affairs, 26 (1), 89-108.
McGeehan, P. (2011). The High Line Isn’t Just a Sight to See; It’s Also an Economic Dynamo. New York Times, June 5, 2011.
Shevory, K. (2011). Cities See the Other Side of the Tracks. New York Times, August 2, 2011.
Slater, T. (2006). The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research, Volume 30.4 December 2006 International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 737–57. DOI:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2006.00689.x
Smithsonian Institution Architectural History and Historic Preservation (2005). Historic Preservation Terms: Smithsonian Directive 418 Appendix B 04/18/05, http://www.si.edu/oahp/pdf/SD418-AppB.pdf Accessed: 06/11/2012 22:17
Swaan, A. (2004). The fetish of authenticity, in Leon Deben et al., eds., Cultural heritage and the future of the inner city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam: Aksant, pp. 35-42.
Vigdor, J. L., Massey, D. S. and A. M. Rivlin (2002). Does Gentrification Harm the Poor? [with Comments]Author(s): Reviewed work(s): Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs, (2002), pp. 133-182Published by: Brookings Institution Press http://www.jstor.org/stable/25067387. Accessed: 06/11/2012 22:17
Weinstein, L. and X. Ren (2009). The changing right to the city: Urban renewal and housing rights in globalizing Shanghai and Mumbai. City & Community, 8 (4), 407-32.