This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Promoting Social Justice and Equity in Shrinking Cities.
This article currently has free access and is available to read and download.
“There’s money to be made in community”: Real estate developers, community organizing, and profit-making in a shrinking city, by Philip Garboden & Christine Jang-Trettien
Ethnographic studies of neighborhood change have painted vivid portraits of the conflicts between new and legacy residents over norms, power, and resources. These findings, however, are out of sync with shrinking cities where gentrification and revitalization are inexorably intertwined. In particular, they neglect the expanded role of supply-side actors in molding the social life of changing communities. This article uses ethnographic data combined with 72 interviews with developers, landlords, and residents in a Baltimore neighborhood undergoing unprecedented levels of reinvestment. In a context where neighborhood change is driven primarily through public–private partnerships, we find that for-profit actors invest well beyond bricks and mortar and into arenas typically reserved for the government and nonprofit sectors. In our case, developers organize community events, take over or replicate existing community organizations, and monopolize online organizing tools. Though these activities are designed ultimately to serve the interests of developers, we argue for a more dialectical relationship: whereas the state becomes increasingly reliant on private firms for neighborhood revitalization, those firms become increasingly reliant on the best practices of community organizing for profit-making.