Review: “Retail Gentrification and Race”

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

In “Retail Gentrification and Race: the Case of Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon,” authors Sullivan and Shaw analyze the reactions of longtime residents of Portland’s Alberta Street to the gentrification of their neighborhood to understand the influence of race and social class over perception of the gentrification changes. According to Sullivan and Shaw’s findings, while some black longtime residents embraced the gentrification solely for reasons of improved shopping convenience and aesthetics, many other black residents resent the new white business that they perceive as excluding and displacing them, confirming that race is a factor in attitudes towards gentrification. The influence of race is further exemplified by the mainstream white residents, who show undifferentiated support for all new white businesses. They believe that all white businesses will bring cultural improvement, including bohemian ones, likely due to the perception that they are “whitening” the neighborhood. On the other hand, social class is the most important factor in the opinions of white bohemian residents. While they greatly support new businesses that reflect their own lifestyle, such as coffee shops, they disdain the more expensive ones that cater to mainstream white residents.

Because gentrification of neighborhoods often evokes feelings of displacement amongst the racial minority and offers services that are not desired, it is often viewed unfavorably by many longtime residents. Sullivan and Shaw use this information to argue against the “creative city” image used by cities such as Portland to attract the bohemian “creative class” to “increase diversity.” In truth, while “creative gentrification” appeals to both mainstream and bohemian whites, it thwarts the goal of increased diversity by excluding the neighborhoods’ longtime black residents.

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