Gentrification and a Better Quality of Life

Over time, residents of a specific area, see to notices of displacement in the hope of having part of their neighborhood developed, termed as, gentrification. The portion under development intends to take the shortest amount of time and the need to have the original residents move to other parts, results in an increase in the prices of the residential areas. In most cases, the movement to develop a specific area, seeks to have the undesirable places acquire value and when the prices go up, renters end up moving out, to pave the way for further developments. The developments, intended to improve the quality of living of the residents of the area; thus, ushering in the improved regions after the renovations (Shin, pp.515).

In gentrification, the way of living of residents sees to changes that impact the residents in their well-being; however, the impacts are disproportional and most of the importance is seen in the new arrivals and not to the initial residents, before gentrification. The established residents end up marginalized and have difficulty affording to live in their original homes, given that the development attracts the wealthy individuals. It is therefore without a doubt that gentrification intends to displace the unfortunate individuals in having the wealthy outsiders take over their neighborhood (Ekstam, pp. 441). However, gentrification sees to the general improvement of life of the citizens that make the developed areas desirable by the wealthy individuals in the society. The redevelopment of the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, PA, provides an example of how changes in a community, can reflect the positive effects of gentrification. The aspects that make this revitalized neighborhood desirable from its redevelopment, range from economic, social, and political perspectives.

It is evident, that among the elements that improve the quality of life of citizens, are the improved public services to the existing members of the neighborhood. The residents owning their own houses would see no effect from the displacement; however, after the whole development process comes to an end, they turn out to be among the first individuals to enjoy the improved services, from the initial undesirable ones.

Consequently, the new residents would not only enjoy the improved services available but will also see the pride in the housing, with the habitable and walkable neighborhood. In the rich displacing the residents of the undesirable area, they end up owning the whole block filled with residents of similar status; therefore, they end up leading improved and settled lives paying regards to gentrification. “The ability to control public spaces, housing or governance in a community- a signature of gentrification- can change the way that communities are experienced and understood- which ultimately translates into individual and institutional level investment in the neighborhood” (Howell 213). Gentrification guarantees an increase in the value of the property in the gentrified area, therein increasing homeowner wealth. Therefore, the existing residents would receive profits in investing their assets in the area that would have the now-desirable area gain high value, increasing their wealth.

The new residents as well would have economic opportunities improved from the high ratings and cost of the neighborhood. Without gentrification taking place, the overall property value would be consequently low with no prospects that would encourage people to inhabit the locality. The East Liberty section of Pittsburgh has seen many improvements in their community, due in part, to gentrification. While many residents have been displaced in the gentrification, those who remained in the area, now see a more economically thriving community along with, a decrease in abandoned buildings and slumlord properties.

In a conversation I had, with Frank Armanini, who “flips” many houses throughout the Pittsburgh area, he explained that “property values have increased, due to fixing up run-down houses” and that one of the “best investments he made, was buying a house for $12,000 on Hamilton Ave., in 2009, slightly remodeling it, and re-selling it for $97,000, in 2010” (Armanini). Rental costs in the East Liberty area have increased, as well. Christian Campbell, a high school friend, told me that the rent for his apartment on Borland St. has “gone up $100, since he moved in, just 2 years ago” (Campbell).

Meanwhile, the commercial aspect of gentrification goes well beyond housing and “the perception is no longer about rent increases, landlord harassment and working-class displacement, but rather street-level spectacles, trendy bars, and cafes . . .” (Doucet 128). East Liberty, formerly an area, with abandoned properties and run-down buildings, has now become just such a commercial area, as the neighborhood is now the result of a 2010 revitalization plan of the East Liberty Development, Inc., which included goals such as: neighborhood stabilization, commercial core revitalization, transportation connectivity, greening, and safety initiatives, etc. (East Liberty Development, Inc.).

As a former resident of Highland Park, a neighborhood located, directly beside East Liberty, I personally witnessed some of the changes, that have helped to improve the economy, in the East Liberty area. As a student, attending Sacred Heart Elementary School, in nearby Shadyside, I watched, as one of the first major transformations took place, with the opening of Bakery Square in 2010. Located along Penn Ave., Bakery Square was constructed, replacing the old Nabisco plant, with a Google office, and upscale shops such as: Coffee Tree, Jimmy Johns, Panera, Springhill Suites, and Social, to name a few.

According to a 2013 case study by Carnegie Mellon University, 1600 new jobs were expected to have been created from the opening of Bakery Square, helping to boost the economy (Carnegie Mellon University). I remember the first time I ate at Jimmy Johns in Bakery Square, while eating my hoagie, I sat wondering if I was really, in fact, still in East Liberty. I also remember the opening of the new Target store, located in the old Penn Circle, and that it was very cool because it had two floors. I decided to take a drive back to East Liberty, this past Halloween, to access the area, and I noticed many new changes. I can recall passing the Penn Plaza Apartments, across from the old Baby Land, many times; however, the spot where the apartments were located, is now a leveled lot.

I also traveled along Highland Ave., which had many shops when I lived there; however, I noticed many more shopping areas, restaurants, and a luxury apartment building, called Walnut on Highland. While I drove around, I noticed that there were still some businesses in East Liberty, that weren’t necessarily upscale, such as: small food stores, hair braiding shops, ethnic clothing shops, and old barber shops. There was however; a different feel to the entire area, as East Liberty was filled with a lot more people walking on the streets, many of them professionals with their suits and ties. With the development of the East Liberty neighborhood, which used to be undesirable to the wealthy, the residents that faced no displacement, now have more diversified local shops in their areas. Despite the local shops contributing to the economic growth of the residential area, the locals also boost themselves in investing in local small businesses that improve their way of living (Helbrecht, pp. 5).

In the arrival of the new residents who were wealthy enough to displace the other residents of the neighborhood, the existing residents turn out to have a foundation directing their transfer and exchange of goods and services, further creating a good relationship among them.

Among the issues that discourage most individuals in living in specific areas is the issue of congestion as well as pollution emissions and traffic problems. However, gentrification eradicates parking subsidies by reducing regional traffic. The reduction thus enables the existing residents to travel around their neighborhood at ease, as well as, have the outsiders desire to live in the area.

On the other hand, the new residents move into the community with improved accessibility, ensuring that they save the transportation costs. The wealthy individuals, with their automobiles, desire to live in less congested areas with traffic problems; thus, gentrification improves their lives by eradicating the issues. Traffic congestion, for instance, lessened in East Liberty when the road, around Penn Circle, which used to be a one-way street through the center of East Liberty, was replaced with two lanes, allowing a better flow of traffic through the area. The traffic pattern in East Liberty, has also changed for the better with the East Liberty Transit Center, which is a bus rapid transit system that connects the east end of Pittsburgh to downtown areas, via the Martin Luther King Jr. Busway.

According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, the goal was to “encourage more traditional urban density and decrease automobile use . . .” (Rosenblum). Furthermore, while traveling through East Liberty, I also noticed that there are now many bike rental racks, labeled Healthy Ride, on several different streets, which may further help to reduce automobile usage.

In living in the area that used to be undesirable in the society, the existing residents without a doubt had unwanted opportunities in their neighborhood. However, in the gentrification, the wealthier people take over, therein bringing with them available opportunities to the locals. The existing residents would thus, boast of improved opportunities as a driving force to economic supremacy from the employment opportunities. The new residents displacing the old undesirable locality also agree to receive more diverse options in living in a diverse community. To both the incoming new residents and the existing ones, social interaction is evident, therein building upon the social being of society by natural order.

The children from the low-income backgrounds of the existing residents get an opportunity to interact with those of the children from wealthy families. Living in mixed-income neighborhoods enables them to understand the distinction and struggles in the society thus growing to be better individuals with ethical and moral values. Additionally, of importance to both the children and parents of the lower-income families, is the honor of living in neighborhoods with reduced violence and crime (Shin, pp. 515). According to a Numeritics Crime Data Analysis, not only have property prices doubled, but the crime rate has decreased 49% from 2008-2012, in East Liberty (Fabusuyi and Hill). Additionally, with gentrification, lower income families put in work to ensure that they keep up with their neighbors; therefore, gentrification is vital in motivating the individuals to live a better life.

In general, gentrification aims at having specific undesirable areas, even without the affluent individuals develop. In most of the regions extending, a state or a country will see to urbanization and modernization. Therefore, with the wealthy individuals displacing the low-income individuals, there would be an expected locality that is considered urbanized. In the other areas around the gentrification area that are observing the development to modernization and urbanization, developing their area, would follow suit and the events would gradually commence from infrastructure to social amenities and housing improvement. In due time, most of the regions end up developing thus pushing the state further.

Moreover, the development from gentrification assures the local government of collecting higher taxes with the increased value of property and desirability of the area. The taxes further end up in the national expenditure therein improving the state (Shin, pp.513). It is the government that sees to the well -being of the citizens wherein the taxes ensure aid in funding to the government’s projects with intentions of improving the quality of life of individuals.

In having certain areas that used to be undesirable to people being available for affluent individuals, the existing residents would receive new neighbors from all parts of the nation, if not the world. Therefore, a cultural mix comes to life with people of different ways of lives developing themselves in the same setting. A diversified income mix also plays a role to the residents with some venturing in such platforms as income from restaurants, while some in braiding hair, as is the case in East Liberty. The diversity creates an environment with people respecting the various income mix. The new arrivals in the developed neighborhoods finally get a chance to deal with the existing residents to improve their public social fitness.

From the impacts of gentrification to the existing residents and the new residents, it is evident that the displacement of residents to develop undesirable areas would improve the quality of life. The quality of life obtained from the improved services, leads to better security alongside the social amenities and infrastructure that makes life easier for the residents. Having residents with life made easier improves the quality of life.

However, as objected by the terms of gentrification, the low-earning individuals get displaced for the rich to take over. The low-income residents displaced from their residents leave their home that they know to start afresh in places they are not sure about (Shaw, pp.193). Moreover, their low incomes would neither enable them to relocate to better residences nor safe locations, but to the most undesirable locations with increased crime rates. Furthermore, the small-sized retail shops that were meant for the low-income individuals, also fall victim to relocation; thus, having a people’s agent of generating income tampered with. Whatever is left for the displaced population is misery without hopes of having improved or quality lives.

Should policymakers and the government intervene in gentrification to have the displaced people relocated, rather than develop locations according to their level, then the quality of life would improve to both parties. Instead of inflating the prices to drive out the low earners in the society, they should see to acquiring alternative residences that they can afford (Shaw, pp.192). Marginalization postpones the inevitable, having the case of poverty not addressed (Ekstam, pp. 439). Instead, the gentrification should gradually develop the undesirable relocating point they seek to marginalize, while improving the neighborhood. One such development in the East Liberty section, benefits former Penn Plaza apartment renters. Approximately 200 residents of the Penn Plaza apartments were displaced when the complex was closed; however, with the new planned development of the property, 50% of the revenue generated from the new project will be donated to finance affordable housing for some of the displaced residents (Bauder).

Despite the few shortcomings in the displacement and marginalization, gentrification without a doubt improves the quality of life of residents (Helbrecht, pp.3). It is the nature of man to have a development of their surroundings to improve the quality of their lives thus; gentrification being one of the strategies, to the improvement. Economically, gentrification contributes to the stabilization of an area, by creating new jobs due to new businesses and by an increase in property value. Socially, gentrification provides an important cultural mix, as well as, increased safety to a community. Politically, gentrification challenges the state on what plans and policies they have on events of displacement, therein having efficiency portrayed in their reaction. Gentrification does not have to imply that the wealthy live with the wealthy and the poor live with the poor. Providing there is a proper mix within a community, as is seen in East Libety, PA, gentrification can, without a doubt, prove to be beneficial to the neighborhood.

Works Cited

  1. Armanini, Frank. Personal Interview. 12 Oct. 2018.
  2. “Bakery Square Development (Former Nabisco Factory).” Bakery Square-Carnegie Mellon University, Carnegie Mellon University, 2013,
  3. Bauder, Bob. “Pittsburgh Settles Court Battle over Penn Plaza Apartments.”, 28 Oct. 2017,
  4. Campbell, Christion. Personal Interview. 31 Oct. 2018.
  5. Doucet, Brian. “A Process of Change and a Changing Process: Introduction to the Special Issue on Contemporary Gentrification.” Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie (Journal of Economic & Social Geography), vol. 105, no. 2, Apr. 2014, pp. 125–139. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/tesg.12075. Accessed 12 Nov. 2018.
  6. “East Liberty Community Development Plans & Studies.” East Liberty Development Inc., 2018, Accessed 12 Nov. 2018.
  7. Ekstam, Helen. ‘Residential Crowding in a “Distressed” and a “Gentrified” Neighbourhood – Towards an Understanding of Crowding in “Gentrified” Neighbourhoods.’ Housing, Theory and Society, vol. 32, no. 4, 2015, pp. 429-449, Taylor and Francis Online, DOI: 10.1080/14036096.2015.1059355. Accessed 01 Nov. 2018.
  8. Fabusuyi, Tayo, and Victoria Hill. “East Liberty Crime Data Analysis.” Numeritics, Oct. 2013,                            Helbrecht, Ilse. ‘Gentrification and Displacement.’ Gentrification and Resistance, 2017, pp. 1-7.
  9. Howell, Kathryn L. “Planning for Empowerment: Upending the Traditional Approach to Planning for Affordable Housing in the Face of Gentrification.” Planning Theory & Practice, vol. 17, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 210–226. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/14649357.2016.1156729. Accessed 04 Nov. 2018.
  10. Rosenblum, Charles. “The New East Liberty Transit Center Is a Mixed Success.” Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh City Paper, 19 Nov. 2018,
  11. Shaw, Kate. A Response to ‘The Eviction of Critical Perspectives from Gentrification Research’. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 32, no. 1, 2008, pp. 192-194, Wiley Online Library, DOI:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2008.00772.x. Accessed 01 Nov. 2018.
  12. Shin, Hyun B. ‘Contesting speculative urbanization and strategizing discontents.’ City, vol. 18, no. 4-5, 2014, pp. 509-516, Taylor and Francis Online, DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2014.939471. Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.
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