Most people are just getting familiarized with this term within the last couple years. If you are unaware of the meaning of this word allow me to elaborate. The definition of gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste, or the process of making a person or activity more refined or polite. A lot of cities are going through this and some are unaware that their city is going through this metamorphosis.
Speaking from personal experience, I noticed the change in my city after the real estate collapse. Being a native Floridian where the real estate crisis originated. There were plenty of homes that were empty or abandoned because of peoples’ inability to pay the mortgage. So, there was an influx of high rises and businesses that took their place. The longtime residents who were fortunate enough to keep their homes are now faced with higher property taxes. Now they’re faced with the decision of keeping the family heirloom or leaving? Some try to refute the claims of gentrification and state that the changes are coming from college grads. This has been proven false because Tampa made the top 10 list of gentrified cities.
In Tampa the changes were noticeable in the early 2000s.That is when the city tore down the first housing development. Some people know this area as Belmont heights, but long-term residents know this area as Ponce Deleon. This community is close to Ybor City which is a major tourist spot. That area had a reputation of being dangerous so, it’s understandable why those came down first. The next housing development to come down was Central Park. These housing apartments are in downtown so this is the first thing that tourists see. They were visible from the interstate which meant they had to go. How can you draw in major investors with decaying sky lines?
One thing I can commend the city on is how quick they put the housing communities back up. The only hurtful thing to see is the erasure of small business. When I first moved to Tampa there was a strip of black owned businesses on 22nd street. Anything you wanted or needed could be purchased from people who looked like you. As I have gotten older those shops have disappeared. Whenever I wanted authentic Hispanic food I could go to West Tampa and get it. The same thing is happening on that side as well. Those old familiar mom and pop shops are disappearing as well. This might be miniscule to some but to me this is a big deal. I enjoyed being able to frequent small bodegas buying café con leche with my Cubans. These are small pleasantries I enjoyed with people who knew me by name.
Please don’t get it misconstrued that I’m opposed to the growth. I just pray and hope that city leaders don’t leave residents behind. When cities make tremendous changes like this it doesn’t include everyone and leaves many minorities behind. Someone must foot the bill for these changes which is normally left up to the common folk. If they keep driving prices up to the point where no one can afford things, then this will be year 2008 all over again.