“How does the Improvement of Public Infrastructure in Lower-Income Communities Influence Gentrification in Chicago?”
Author: Anna Pirvu
Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement
Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE
This research project worked to identify any correlations between the improvement of public infrastructure in lower-income communities and gentrification and specifically view this process within Chicago. Gentrification in this context is not solely the pushing out of people physically but also the change in the social sphere of a community. The method used to uncover the resolution to this proposition was researching peer-reviewed academic journals. Through the research undergone, it was found that there is a link between improved public assets and gentrification, even when the improvements came from the intention of serving a community. Developments that focus on building infrastructure and using public land in a ‘better’ way are seen as improvements to living conditions in communities with lower economic statuses. But simply implementing these developments without focusing on protecting the existing society can lead to gentrification, both physically and socially. Thus, when fundamental changes are being proposed, the development plan must also include a plan of action that calls for the protection and preservation of the existing community within the said neighborhood that the proposal will affect. With a change in the physical or social environment of a community comes the risk of gentrifying current community stakeholders and participants. Actively seeking to preserve the spirit of the community is just as vital as improving conditions that affect the quality of life. Implementing such improvements benefits the existing community members. Thus, pushing them away is counterintuitive. The creation of community land trusts in lower-income neighborhoods, along with the prohibition of large-scale luxury residency development are two active methods to combat early signs of gentrification, such as increasing property values and related costs and taxes, and the pushing out of existing community members due to financial pressures.
Keywords: gentrification, public, infrastructure, improvement, community, neighborhood