Are You a Gentrifier? Confronting the Hard Questions of Detroit’s Most Controversial Concept

Gentrification can mean development and revitalization, but also displacement and loss of culture. Two experts address the challenges of discussing the topic in Detroit.

Gus Navarro/WDET

We’ve all heard the word gentrification before, and we think we know the definition. It’s the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste, often in a way that drives poorer residents out.

But have we thought about how we might be individual contributors to gentrification? Or how we might be resistors to this kind of community change? 

Related: Are you a gentrifier? Take the quiz

Gentrification is more complex than real estate development or new bars or restaurants. It’s also about culture and community. And we don’t often think about the ways individuals and businesses influence culture and community changes, and whether that change is positive, negative, or both.

Gus Navarro/WDET

Alan Mallach is senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress based in Washington D.C. and the author of “The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America.” 

Maria Anita Salinas is the executive director of Congress of Communities, an advocacy group based in Southwest Detroit. She has been convening conversations between the Corktown and Southwest neighborhoods, as well as between residents, business owners, and various stakeholders for several years now. Maria also worked with Data Driven Detroit on their Turning The Corner project, which looked closely at neighborhood change in the city.

Lisa Ludwinski is the owner of Sister Pie in West Village, Detroit and author of “Sister Pie: Recipes and Stories from the Detroit Bakery.” She talks about how she views her business’ role in the community and how that neighborhood has changed and continues to change.

Related: City Divided: A Look At The Disparities in Detroit

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.


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