Urban Planning (URP) 479/592

Gentrification: Decline, Revitalization, and Social Justice

On campus, Tuesday & Thursday, 11:00-12:15pm

Today, few conversations about urban transformation and development occur without including the topic of gentrification. Cities and neighborhoods in the United States and around the globe are experiencing rapid changes in investment and demographics. Those changes have culminated in drastic shifts in the built environment, but also the wealth and diversity of urban places. Some argue gentrification is a necessary part of improving cities and neighborhoods; others insist gentrification creates inequality by displacing existing residents who are often lower income and people of color. Despite steady popular and scholarly attention on gentrification, the concepts, complexities, and conflicts around it are not straightforward, nor is gentrification always the most useful explanation for how a city is changing or why it is unequal. In this class, students will study and engage gentrification as part of historical and contemporary transformations in how cities are built, governed, planned, and inhabited. Students will examine case studies in declining cities like Detroit, MI and growing cities like Austin, TX. We will reflect on gentrification in the context of broader political and economic shifts, with particular focus on what drives investment and disinvestment in cities. What does the concept of gentrification include or exclude? How do we know when we are seeing gentrification happen? What other processes of urban change are shaping the built environment? By building an understanding rooted in history and public policy, we can begin to decipher both the advantages and disadvantages of focusing on gentrification in the struggle to build and plan socially-just cities and neighborhoods.

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