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Stop Gentrification Posters in OKC’s Paseo

“I have a friend who jokes (?) about how this neighborhood is full of yuppie scum like us now.” –From the Denver-based blog, Bird Wanna Whistle

Last night, Rob, the kids and I walked to dinner at Sauced on The Paseo. They have amazing pizza, the kind we used to get as kids, and a great outdoor patio. One of the advantages of living in this part of Oklahoma City’s urban jungle is walkability. In the 10 years we’ve lived down here at least a dozen restaurants have cropped up within walking distance of our house. We don’t take advantage of it often enough.

Stop Gentrification

On the walk home I noticed some signs plastered to a dumpster, “Stop Gentrification.” I’ve seen them before and have always intended to explore the topic a little more.

According to Merriam-Webster, gentrification is the “process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

In 2007, a New York Times writer identified gentrification as a leading leitmotif among writers and scholars studying the reshaping of Manhattan. The title of the article was Gentrification as Benign Ethnic Cleansing.

Gentrification, however, is nothing new. In fact, it’s ancient, although the term, derived from words like gentlemen and gentry, was not coined until the 1960s. In a 1998 editorial cartoon the Washington Post’s Tom Toles shed this light:

Gentrification in Oklahoma City: Examining Urban Revitalization in Middle America

It’s 2011, and with Census data now more available, I wonder if we’ll begin to hear more about gentrification in Oklahoma City. Last month, at the Association of American Geographers’ annual meeting in Seattle, Clint Petty of the University of North Texas presented a paper, Gentrification in Oklahoma City: Examining Urban Revitalization in Middle America. I’ve emailed the author for more information. In the meantime, Here is the abstract:

“Gentrification applies not only to the largest and oldest cities; it is a multi-scalar phenomenon playing out in smaller and less prominent settings as well. This study examines temporal changes in property values, demographic characteristics, and types of businesses in the central Oklahoma City area. A major urban revitalization project which began there in 1993 created strong gentrification characteristics near the renewal’s epicenter, the Bricktown entertainment district. Data suggests that several specific neighborhoods in the surrounding area exhibited a rise in property values, an improvement in educational attainment rates, and a shift toward cosmopolitan retail activity. While it is evident that Bricktown has been transformed, the socio-economic traits of surrounding neighborhoods have been altered by the ripple effects of urban renewal.”

In April, Clybourne Park won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama. The play by Bruce Norris is about race relations and the impact of modern gentrification on one Chicago neighborhood.

What do you think about the gentrification of Oklahoma City neighborhoods? Can you think of examples beyond the Paseo? What about the Plaza District?

Stop Gentrification

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I recently moved to the Gatewood neighborhood for the purpose of volunteering at a hospital on 13th. Even after participating in a community walk event to promote safe neighborhoods I quickly felt the dreaded “renter” bias. I have to speak to the “homesteaders” first, they will not speak to you. If I hear or see anything wrong I go outside or call the police, how else do you maintain law and order standards? The people who need to be “looked at” are the property owners, who spray a coat of paint on anything that still resembles a house and charge substantial rents. They need to be constantly held accountable for condition of their properties and any activities that disturb the peace from their tenants.Building permits were still required for renovations the last time I looked. Only when you get these “slum lords” on the same page will you see a cohesive and maybe a friendlier neighborhood.

  2. Yogi♪♪♪

    I used to rent a house in Edgemere in the middle 1980’s. I moved out after a few months because everything that wasn’t locked up tight got stolen. The most notable was a female OCU student, with a very nice car, I caught stealing bricks from my back yard (I had a corner lot) who said that she didn’t realize they belonged to anybody. She got really pissy when I made her put them back and wanted to know why I wasn’t helping her.

    The neighborhood, and surrounding neighborhoods look much nice today when I go by to check things out.

  3. jen

    That is exactly what I thought: Then what? But, gentrification does make me uneasy. As a homeowner in an urban neighborhood, I want things around me improved. And, then there’s the gas station someone painted super bright blue. Some community organizers – all white of course – asked him to please paint it a different color. It was ugly, and I would like for him to have used a different color, but…If I’d wanted to live in Edmond, I would have moved there. So, when were you at OCU? My husband graduated from there in 1988.

  4. Friar

    A little after that — from 2000-2005. I worked in the chapel basement; there’s a building that could be urban renewed with few regrets 😉

    In ’88 I was still a reporter in El Reno, which does not have a gentrification problem…

  5. Friar

    Well, I don’t think about it as much as when I worked at OCU and lived at 30th and Villa…

    But my drive to work showed the differences in rehabbed and non-rehabbed areas starkly. The south side of 30th was dotted with rehabbed houses from the folks spreading out of the Shepherd Hills neighborhood, but the north side was still very run down, especially east of Youngs Blvd.. Then once you were east of Pennsylvania, things looked very dicey pretty much all the way through Classen.

    Our campus ministry did a lot of work with Gatewood Elementary, so we saw a mixed group of kids from that district, which was gentrifying.

    The signs make me laugh. “Stop gentrification.” And then what? Leave the area to keep running down until it’s nothing but blight and our very own version of Hunts Point? Or we could also ask how? Prohibit people from buying or selling property in an area? The lawyers salivate. Someone who wants to stop an area from gentrifying needs to cough up the money to buy the property to prevent the change they don’t want to see.

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