Which Type of Gentrifier am I?

This article got me thinking. I’d like to share some of those thoughts here with my reaction—I invite discussion.


I am a vocal advocate for “gentrification without displacement.” I see no problem with creating a better neighborhood if lifelong residents can easily remain. Yet, could I actually be an active participant in displacement?

I chose Hampden not because it was up-and-coming, but because it had qualities I love and wanted in a community. The developing “hipster” scene feels to be quelling some of that, and I worry that my willingness to buy a higher-than-neighborhood-average priced home here in 2014 (combined with my support of said hipster establishments) only adds fuel to the fire.

Now, I had my eyes on Hampden long before there were beer halls, high-end restaurants, or the city’s “choicest liquor store.” I’ve loved almost everything about the neighborhood for over a decade. That being said, I do often complain about “old Hampden” — specifically, those of whom are racist.

So as I sit here and complain about the people I replace (and, again, sometimes feel no remorse when it’s replacing racists), and as I remain involved in improving the community through various means, I do nothing but watch as housing prices skyrocket and vacant homes flip and sell for MORE than my once-higher-than-average/but-now-probably-below-average priced home. Worse still, my worry is less about the people who’ve spent their entire lives in the community but can no longer afford it, and more about what I’m going to do when I need to grow my home and won’t be able to afford it. How shameful of me.

So, as I reflect, I’d say I’m a combination of all four types of gentrifiers:

  1. The Gentrifier Against Gentrification because, as I expressed, my ideal scenario is to invest without displacing.
  2. The Tiptoeing Gentrifier because I recognize my intrusion in the community and thus I tread lightly (though I am well aware of the strength of the existing fabric);.
  3. The Conqueror because I indeed am ashamed to be neighbors with racists and wish some would leave to make room for more open-minded and especially more minority residents (and at the same time, yes, I recognize the unlikeliness of seeing more minorities given the rapidly developing landscape of the community).
  4. The Curator because—even though I have ties to the neighborhood through my great grandfather and my mother-in-law—I have no immediate connection to the community or its quirks, yet I’m still quick to take the “keep Hampden weird” stance.

It’s important to recognize my role in gentrification with displacement, and it’s giving me the opportunity to consider what I can do to play a positive role.

 

Why Would Anyone Want to Live in Baltimore

So it’s been 4.5 months since I moved into my home in Baltimore and, truly, I could not be happier!! While I’m still super busy and lack much time to write, I wanted to give a few cents on why I think you need to move into Baltimore.

My Story

I wanted to move into Baltimore City, first and foremost, because I wanted a more efficient and sustainable lifestyle. I wanted to live smaller, more simply…to have greater access to such a variety of experiences was more important than having a suburban house with lots of “stuff” and many “things” (I’m still working on reducing all of my stuff and things, but I’m making improvements!).

I also chose Baltimore because it’s up-and-coming—it’s on a cusp—and I see so much promise. Something great is about to happen and I not only want to be here for it, but I want to contribute to it. It’s really exciting to be a part of that—something that’s evolving, growing, and only getting better!

I chose Hampden back when I was in school nearby at MICA. I love how eclectic the neighborhood is; the people who live here are super crazy (myself included, I suppose). . .and I absolutely love that! It definitely has a unique character about it and it’s exactly what I wanted—it’s a little bit artsy, a little hippie (also a little hipster), a bit old fashioned, and sometimes conservative. I love the small, historic homes, and the possibility of still having my “patch of grass.” I love that it’s walkable to literally everything I could ever need: bank, pharmacy, hardware store, grocery, post office, breakfast/lunch/dinner/dessert, multiple parks, hike/bike trails, light rail (reasonably walkable, if you’re comfortable walking 10-15 minutes [I am]), bus stops, shops, movie theater, etc. And it’s small enough to still feel like a tiny, close-knit community—but with all the amenities of urban living. There’s recent development and interest in the community, and it’s definitely on the rise. I needed to get in while it was still affordable; however, I do think that the diversity of homes in the area (a diversity which I hope never goes away) will mean that anyone can find a house at or near their price point. So, I had been looking at homes in Hampden for years, and it just happened that my new job was located in the neighborhood!

Things worked out perfectly for me, and they can work out just as well for anyone else looking to move into Baltimore!

Advice for Buyers/Renters

My advice for buyers? Definitely take advantage of Baltimore’s many resources and incentives (see Live Baltimore’s site). I was able to receive the First Time Homebuyer/Buying Into Baltimore incentive, as well as a Live Near Your Work incentive. My house is also historic, so we’ve received preliminary approval for Historic Tax Credits.

As for renters, I would also recommend taking advantage of Live Baltimore to get a feel for different communities.

Finding the Right Neighborhood

For both renters and buyers (although this is especially important for buyers), I would recommend going to the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance’s website to know the facts about the different neighborhoods (crime, schools, income, diversity, etc.).

Look at sites like WalkScore and ParkScore to learn about a neighborhood’s amenities.

Living car-free and walking/biking to work is doable from certain areas of Baltimore. I still have my car (I literally just paid it off about a month ago), but I usually walk or bike to work—I’m still getting used to not commuting by car! In Baltimore, though, if the neighborhood is right and there are still Zipcars around, you could maybe even live car free—or be a single car household! (That’s my goal.) But unless you live within walking/biking distance to work, I wouldn’t suggest getting rid of the car just yet. Baltimore’s transit is still going through puberty…and it’s a bit of a rebel at times.

Once you’ve found a couple winner neighborhoods, be sure to attend their community association meetings before making a decision, and stay involved once you move in!

Getting Friendly with Baltimore

Lastly, for newcomers discovering Baltimore, I have a few tricks: find Meetup groups, buy the Baltimore drink/dine deck to learn about the coolest bars/restaurants, spend the autumn months enjoying Free Fall Baltimore, find great causes to support with VolunteerMatch, or join a sports group—like the Baltimore Sports & Social Club, etc.  And stay up-to-date with all the latest happenings through Visit Baltimore!

My apologies for not being active lately…

I keep telling myself this schedule will let up…I keep promising my readers that I will be posting more…alas, none of it has been true!

From left to right: Ryan Montoni, Peter Doo, and Megan Griffith. Photo courtesy of Doo Consulting

Some exciting things are happening, though. My internship at Doo Consulting, a sustainability consulting firm in Towson, MD has been great. Last month, we participated in the international event, Park(ing) Day. You can hear a moderately embarrassing clip of me speaking in this interview which aired on the Towson University radio station: http://wtmd.org/radio/2012/09/26/parking-day-baltimore/

Our pop-up space’s theme was the “Future Doodle”- more of this will surely come to fruition in the coming weeks, I’ll share information about it when I can! In the mean time, I’ll share an in-progress image of my Future Doodle:

Megan Griffith working on her “Future Doodle” at the Doo Consulting Park(ing) Day space in Towson, MD. Photo courtesy of Doo Consulting.