Renewal at what cost?

by Beacon Staff • November 15, 2006

Just look at our own campus, which has just completed a decade-long transition from quaint Back Bay to the Theatre District.

Such a move could not be more appropriate for Emerson's artistic aesthetic.

Emerson's move was also part of a reinvigoration of the Theatre District.,There's no denying the changes in Boston.

Just look at our own campus, which has just completed a decade-long transition from quaint Back Bay to the Theatre District.

Such a move could not be more appropriate for Emerson's artistic aesthetic.

Emerson's move was also part of a reinvigoration of the Theatre District. The relocation of the campus should be welcomed and embraced for not only giving the campus a place to grow, but also for helping reshape the surrounding area. The community and the college both benefit in this relationship.

Outside of Emerson, plenty of other development projects are abound.

An example right at Emerson's doorstep is the Silver Line. The bus line, which debuted in 2002, was a long-overdue replacement for the Washington Street Elevated which was torn down in 1987.

The role of mass transit in city life is profound, so the Silver Line will have dramatic effects on commerce and residential life in the city. This community development often goes by a more sinister name-gentrification.

Gentrification is the act of renewing deteriorating areas which often results in the displacement of poor residents.

Redeveloping communities for the benefit of the residents is a good thing. But too often, the residents are overlooked.

For a class project last month, two fellow journalism students and I trekked to Dudley Square in Roxbury to interview residents.

We hopped on the Silver Line, which runs down the artery of redevelopment, Washington Street. It doesn't look like Dubai, but speckled here and there are construction and renovation projects as evidence that something is happening.

Gentrication doesn't benefit residents or solve social ills. Instead, it exports the problems of depressed neighborhoods. And with these elements go the residents who cannot afford the rising land values or the rising rent.

Things have come a long way. There was a time when cities "fixed" neighborhoods with bulldozers.

Scollay Square, a former red light district in Boston, was razed to build the sharp concrete monster we know as Government Center.

Rather than redevelop the neighborhood, the city paved it over.

But in a similar way, gentrification paves over social problems as it reinvigorates. All isn't lost, however.

Non-profit organizations are buying property to keep rent low for businesses and residents.But will these non-profits be unable to triumph against the onslaught of mass redevelopment?

In the end, the dollar will probably win. The same people will keep losing, and the same problems will forever jump around, never to be solved.