It’s Not Gentrification, It’s Urban Development

By Nyah Herbert

One of the more powerful arguments being made about modern gentrification is that by improving urban areas, everyone benefits. While some believe urban renewal can be described as “gentrification”  this is a more negative connotation for what others would describe as general improvement, calling it re-development. Overall there is compelling evidence that when urban areas are improved with open spaces, new businesses, and improved housing, the benefits reach the entire community.

When you think of urban development there are usually a few images that come to mind. The first, a park being built and children planting in a community garden. The second is nice homes or buildings. Urban development is useful in many ways. For example, having playgrounds for children to play on and recreation centers and clubs for teens to go to around the neighborhood encourages them to go there, have fun and meet new people, rather than join a gang.

Urban renewal, which leads to gentrifying traditional neighborhoods can also turn out to improve cities economically. In many cases it goes those who can deal with a higher economy can afford a higher rent. Often times they will say that once more people move in the more people move out because of the changes that they are making to accommodate the newcomers. But the truth is, they either cannot handle the changes or they do not like them so they move away. People from the outside would call it gentrification but, in reality, they just cannot get over the fact that new people are coming in trying to make something of that area.


In most cases, as explained by John Buntin in the article The Myth of Gentrification, people say, “ They [white people] move into run-down—but charming and historic—homes and loft spaces close to the urban core. Houses are restored. Funky coffee shops appear. Public safety improves. Then rents and home prices start to go up…” As property values increase and quality of life measures like safety and cleanliness improve, the benefits can be seen by the entire area.



Renters and low income people have a negative idea about urban development because they do not understand why it happens. It is not like people just decide to change things because they want to, they change it because it will be good for everyone in that area, Paul Pereira  neighborhood team manager states, “That’s the whole concept: you activate a public space and the crime goes down, because people don’t typically commit crimes in front of each other.” This is important because it shows that urban development really has an  affect on the community as far as decreasing the rate of crime and making the community safer for people who live in that city so that they feel comfortable when they walk around their house or community.

Ingrid Gould Ellen believes that urban development is a very important factor in low-income neighborhoods and that it is very beneficial; especially for residents who have children. For example, “Less exposure to environmental toxins could prevent diseases such as asthma; a safer, less violent neighborhood could improve health by reducing the chances of injury and death, and by easing the burden of stress; and a more walkable neighborhood with better playgrounds could encourage children to exercise, making them less likely to become obese.

parks-and-playground-chart (1)

Those who think that gentrification is productive usually have specific or general reasons why. They are all thinking about the children in society and are trying to make the future a better place for them and a great way to start is with urban development. Most people say that children often adapt to their surroundings more easily than adults, so why have them adapt to a toxic and dangerous one? Why put these children in harm for your own good? These are questions that people like Buntin, Pereira, and Ellen are asking instead of throwing developers in the gutter for trying to make their lives easier and for making it possible for little children to be able to grow up in a more developed environment.

In philadelphia, a lot of things have changed over the course of the years. According to Vincent Kling and the Penn center, “After World War II, Center City Philadelphia was described in architectural design journals as a dark and blighted city in social and economic decline.” Things were horrible back then. Until they started rebuilding things, life became a lot easier for residents in philadelphia. For example, published in Architectural Record (1955), “Kling’s interpretation of designing for the people is evident in his vision of Penn Center.  The plan not only included the office towers and parking garages but also considered the scale of the pedestrian level.  The redevelopment included pleasant pedestrian paths, designated underground vehicle traffic, courtyards, and consideration of light and air into underground passage and concourses.”  

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Location:2051 WALNUT STREET in Philadelphia.

This type of scenery encourages people to go out more and feel better about living in the neighborhood. Nobody wants to walk outside of their homes into a grimy neighborhood or city. This supports the claim that urban renewal is dramatically helpful, especially in cases like these where they enhance community and social gatherings, being able to come together and have a great time without having to worry your safety.

This has been proven in philadelphia’s Old City: “There’s really been a boom in tech companies,”  says Ryan Berley, owner of a local retro ice cream parlor, “Old City, for a long time I think, was a nighttime destination only, but I think that trend is changing”. That is not the only change in this area that has improved the area. For example crime rates are dropping in certain areas because of urban renewal.  

Regardless of the intention of urban renewal, its benefits can be incredibly beneficial to the communities as a whole. Whether it is for the resident’s children, their personal safety, or for their business ventures, they believe improving their economy and decreasing violence is worth a few lower class residents having to relocate.

These views cannot be historically traced as it has always been the natural instinct of humans to improve. Improvement is the one thing that won’t change. Everything is changing drastically these days and apart of our natural instinct is to adapt to things. Urban development is one of the best things that could happen in life. Think about this way, why would you not want the economy and the environment to excel, give the younger people a chance to grow up in a nice well developed place. Wouldn’t you want that for your children?


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jackson Tobes says:

    They say that it is urban development, but they end up targeting areas that have become the homes to poorer people, kicking them out, renovating, but no longer giving it back to the people who were originally living there because they no longer have the money to pay for extremely high rent.


    1. ridaarehman says:

      People ate evil!! Thats sort of whats happening in tbe city and its sad because all the natives who have been living there have to move away futher away to find afforable housing


    2. De'zha says:

      I totally agree Jackson, the say “urban development” when in all factually it’s kicking minorities out to bring in the rich.


  2. De'zha says:

    Your case study is very solid and very informative good job Nyah


    1. Nyah says:

      Thank you. It was so hard trying to write a narrative from this view point because we all know that they move out the poor and bring in the rich and trying to find documents on how that’s good is really difficult.


  3. Amanda Levin says:

    After your research, what are your thoughts about urban renewal v. gentrification? Are they ever the same? Or are they mutually exclusive?


    1. Nyah says:

      My opinion is always going to be the same about gentrification. I would never see it as urban development and I feel that they say that instead of gentrification because they’re trying to sugarcoat something that really isn’t good at all in my eyes.


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