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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Expert Lance Freeman Talks Gentrification at GVSU

Mariano Avila

The nation’s foremost academic on urban gentrification gave a talk at GVSU yesterday. Lance Freeman literally wrote the book most urban planners reference regarding gentrification.

“Gentrification is typically defined as when a neighborhood that has experienced divestment, property decline, depopulation, experiences an influx of more affluent residents and investment.”

Sounds great, right? Except when the net outcome is that original residents can’t afford to live in their own neighborhoods. But even if they can:

“New restaurants come in and charge prices that they cannot afford, they feel like, well this is not for me. Or if the police start to crack down on activities that in the past were ok, such as hanging out in the corner or loitering. That’s something that’s a signal that wow, I’m no longer welcome here.”

Freeman’s talk was timed on the one hand, after the City of Grand Rapids held its second Neighborhood Summit to promote inclusive neighborhood development. And on the other, as Rockford Construction’s hushed plans for massive development in the Madison neighborhood were made public after area nonprofits denied being in consultation with Rockford—which the company’s plan claimed it was doing.  And this speaks to Freeman’s only direct suggestion to approach gentrification.

“Having a process in place that allows the community to respond to its particular circumstances might be more important than saying, well, you know, if X happens then do Y.” 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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