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Gentrification, animated

A friend of mine sent me a link this afternoon to an art project called “Vacated”. The artist (Justin Blinder) reverse engineered Google Street View images to create a series of animated GIFs intended to demonstrate New York’s “changing urban landscape during the Bloomberg administration.”

In his description of the project, Blinder ends by saying that “it’s up to the viewer to decide whether this change represents widespread gentrification.” Given the recent discussion we’ve had (here on Architect This City)¬†about gentrification, I thought this post might be a good addendum.

One of the big takeaways from our discussion, I think, was idea that there’s good gentrification and bad gentrification. Gentrification, after all, is really just another word for investment. And so generally I would consider this to be a good thing for communities.

But there are instances when investment comes in and ruins what made the community worth investing in, in the first place. Perhaps the investment brought about the destruction of heritage buildings or the loss of the fine grain urban character that initially made it a great place to be.

In these cases, I would say that this is bad gentrification. Sure there has been investment, but now the community has lost what made it cool. And as Jane Jacobs rightly pointed out: “When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.”

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