Trickle Down Gentrification? Working-Class and Middle-Class African Americans’ Views of Development in Greater Downtown Detroit, Michigan
Jessica Welburn Paige
This article explores how working-class and middle-class African Americans who are long-term residents of Detroit, Michigan, make sense of development in the city’s greater downtown area. I find that respondents employ three frames to discuss gentrification. The first is the “Revitalized City” frame. Respondents employing this frame argue that development is necessary to curb the city’s severe urban decline and will eventually expand to the city’s neighborhoods. The second is the “Tempered Optimism” frame. Respondents employing this frame believe that development will help revitalize the city, but express concern about whether or not the development will help Detroiters outside of the greater downtown area. The third is the “Exclusive Development” frame. The respondents who employ this frame believe that development will not help most Detroit residents and is not inclusive. Findings demonstrate that in the context of severe urban decline, residents’ views about gentrification may not be monolithic. They weigh both positive and negative aspects of development efforts.
Keywords: Detroit; gentrification; race; urban inequality
Detroit is well known for experiencing severe urban decline. Since the mid-twentieth century the city has struggled with deindustrialization, White flight, high unemployment rates, and high poverty rates. A shrinking tax base, high levels of inequality, and limited state and federal funding have also created significant fiscal problems. As a result, Detroit has also been plagued by blight, abandoned buildings, and an inability to provide basic city services. In 2013, Detroit received international attention when it became the largest city in U.S. history to file for municipal bankruptcy.
Yet, in recent years, Detroit has also experienced significant development efforts, which have accelerated since its bankruptcy filing. Much of the development has been centered in the greater downtown area of the city and includes new businesses and restaurants, new and renovated housing units, and a new streetcar service. In addition, population dynamics appear to be shifting. The city—which is over 80 percent African American—has experienced an influx of White residents for the first time since the mid-twentieth century (U.S. Census American Community Survey 2010–2015). Data also suggest that an increased number of young, college-educated professionals are moving into the area (Hudson-Webber Foundation 2015).
Taken together, these changes indicate that Detroit is experiencing a gentrification process in some areas of the city. Discussions of gentrification and urban inequality in predominantly African American areas often focus on how demographic changes may contribute to the economic, social, and political exclusion of long-term residents (Freeman 2006). However, research has suggested that this perspective is not always consistent with how African American residents view development as it is happening. While some research has shown that residents may express concern about being pushed out of gentrifying areas (e.g., Chronopoulos 2016), other research has found that they may also believe gentrification has the potential to bring resources and opportunities to declining areas (Freeman 2006).
Detroit provides an important opportunity to explore how African Americans assess the potential impact of gentrification as it is happening. Development efforts are needed to curb urban decline and revitalize the city. Yet it is unclear how the development will impact the city’s large Black population. Thus, this article explores how working-class and middle-class African Americans who are long-term residents of the city perceive recent development in the greater downtown area. I focus on whether or not respondents believe the development will benefit the city, and concerns and reservations they have about changing dynamics. I demonstrate that in a city that has experienced significant decline, views about gentrification are often mixed. Most respondents express some positive views about development in the city’s greater downtown area. They believe that given Detroit’s downturn, this development is key to the city’s revival. However, many respondents are also concerned that development is not occurring in the neighborhoods outside of the greater downtown area—where most long-term Detroiters live. In addition, some believe that the development efforts exclude African Americans and low-income residents.
Findings shed light on how African Americans who are long-term residents of a major metropolitan area perceive the impact of gentrification. In addition, findings can be used to consider how working-class and middle-class minorities globally may think about gentrification. As more people seek to live in cities, managing the impact of urban growth and development is a significant issue facing major cities across the globe. While we know members of minority groups may be disproportionately impacted by changing population dynamics, it is important to explore how they perceive the consequences of these changes as they are happening.
The Impact of Gentrification
A large body of research has assessed the impact of gentrification on African Americans and other racial minorities in urban areas. One area of research has focused on the extent to which development and gentrification can increase the cost of living and displace African Americans. Hyra (2012) argues that public and private initiatives aimed at revitalizing urban areas during the 1990s and 2000s have led to the displacement of low-income residents in cities across the country including Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC. For example, Hyra (2008) finds that thousands of African Americans in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood were displaced when public housing projects were torn down as a part of urban renewal efforts. As neighborhoods are developed, the cost of living rises, pushing out low-income African Americans and in some cases forcing them to the outskirts of cities or to the suburbs (Hyra 2012).
However, other research has demonstrated less of a direct impact of gentrification on resident displacement (Ding et al. 2016; Freeman 2005; Freeman and Braconi 2004). For example, Freeman and Braconi (2004) explore the impact of gentrification on residential mobility in New York City during the 1990s. Using data from the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey, they find that rapid neighborhood gentrification does not contribute to higher rates of residential mobility for less economically advantaged residents. In fact, they find slower residential mobility rates in quickly gentrifying neighborhoods. Thus, they argue that succession, as opposed to displacement, may contribute to change over time in gentrifying neighborhoods. However, they also argue that gentrification can still have a negative impact on long-term residents by raising the cost of housing and making it more difficult to move within the neighborhood because of rising costs.
Research has also explored how gentrification may lead to the social and political exclusion of long-term residents (Lees 2008; Martin 2007; Pattillo 2007; Shaw and Sullivan 2011; Tissot 2015). For example, Tissot (2015) argues that over time White gentrifiers have become more likely to value neighborhood diversity. Yet in her ethnography of a gentrifying neighborhood in Boston, she also finds that this value placed on diversity is limited to the upper middle class. Thus, the value that White people moving into gentrifying neighborhoods place on diversity is not extended to individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. She also argues that limited state control leaves room for gentrifiers to transform and control neighborhood spaces.
Shaw and Sullivan (2011) explore arts participation among Black and White residents in Portland, Oregon. They explore the impact of what they describe as the “arts-related gentrification” of a formerly declining neighborhood in Portland. They focus specifically on long-term Black and White residents’ participation in a free monthly event in the district. Drawing upon surveys and in-depth interviews, they find that Black residents were significantly less likely to participate in the event. Many expressed a lack of interest in the event or did not perceive it to be an inclusive space. Some also pointed to what they perceived as specific cultural differences between themselves and the predominantly White event attendees, referring to them with terms such as “hippies” and “goths.” Findings demonstrate the ways in which development and gentrification can lead to exclusion, particularly for African Americans.
Previous research has also explored the mixed impact of gentrification on a number of other dimensions of daily life. For example, a large body of research has focused on the impact of gentrification on crime rates. This research has revealed mixed outcomes (Barton and Gruner 2016). For example, Barton (2016) uses data from the U.S. Census and local crime data to explore the impact of gentrification on property and violent crime in New York City’s fifty-five sub-boroughs. They find that between 1990 and 2009, gentrification had a negative impact on crime.
However, Papachristos et al. (2011) find that gentrification can have a negative impact on crime, but this impact can vary based on the racial composition of the neighborhood. They explore the impact of gentrification on crime rates in Chicago. Using data from the U.S. Census and the Chicago Police Department, they explore the impact of the growth in neighborhood coffee shops on homicide and robbery rates, using the number of coffee shops as an indicator of socioeconomic change. They find that between 1991 and 2005 a growth in the number of coffee shops is indeed related to a decrease in homicide rates. However, they also find that the impact of coffee shops on robberies is different depending upon the racial composition of the neighborhood. They find that more coffee shops are correlated with fewer robberies in predominantly White and Latino neighborhoods, while more coffee shops are actually correlated with more robberies in predominantly Black neighborhoods. They argue that this may be related to the gentrifiers—White gentrifiers are more likely to move in to predominantly White and Latino neighborhoods. In contrast, Black neighborhoods are more likely to be gentrified by middle-class and upper-middle-class Black people. As a consequence, fewer coffee shops (and other resources) are available in predominantly Black neighborhoods experiencing gentrification. Thus, findings suggest that the impact of gentrification on neighborhoods may depend upon the racial composition of the neighborhood and the population of gentrifiers.
Gentrification may have a mixed impact on other quality of life issues including educational attainment and health outcomes. Keels et al. (2013) explore the impact of gentrification on school quality in Chicago. Using data from the Chicago Public Schools, they explore whether or not students attending public schools experience improved academic outcomes as the socioeconomic dynamics of their neighborhood change. They find that students’ academic outcomes improve little, even if they reside in a gentrifying neighborhood. Gibbons and Barton (2016) explore the impact of gentrification on self-rated health outcomes. Using U.S. Census data and data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, they find that while gentrification has a small but positive impact on the overall health of neighborhood residents, it has a negative impact on the health outcomes of African Americans. In addition, they find that an influx of Black gentrifiers in particular has a negative impact on the self-reported health of Black residents.
The mixed impact of gentrification on daily quality of life may be in part because majority-minority neighborhoods are less likely to experience sustained gentrification efforts. Hwang and Sampson (2014) explore gentrification in Chicago between 1995 and 2009. Using data from the U.S. Census, the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, and Google Street View, they examine the trajectories of neighborhoods that showed evidence of gentrification efforts in 1995. They find that by 2009, the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods that showed signs of gentrification in 1995 were significantly less likely to experience sustained renewal and more likely to show signs of decline by 2009. Their findings demonstrate that urban renewal within a city can vary significantly depending upon neighborhood racial composition.
Taken together, previous research shows that gentrification may not always have a positive impact on daily life for African Americans and members of other racial minority groups. Yet, residents of gentrifying areas can hold complex views of development and demographic change. Some research has shown that residents may perceive gentrification negatively. For example, Chronopoulos (2016) explores gentrification in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Since the early 2000s, the predominantly Black neighborhood has seen an influx of middle-class and upper-middle-class White residents. Using U.S. Census data, ethnographic observations, interviews with residents, and secondary reports on changing dynamics, Chronopoulos argues that the influx of White people in Fort Greene has directly contributed to the displacement of long-term Black residents and Black-owned businesses. This displacement is due to the rapidly rising cost of living in the area.
However, Freeman (2006) finds that residents may have much more mixed perceptions of gentrification. He interviews African Americans living in Clinton Hill and Harlem, New York, about gentrification and finds that some residents express mixed feelings about gentrification. Some residents express concern about long-term residents being pushed out as the cost of living increases. However, some residents also believe that gentrification can bring resources and opportunities to the area, such as improved public services. Thus, these findings suggest that residents of gentrifying areas may weigh positives and negatives when considering the impact of neighborhood change. This article seeks to develop a better understanding of how long-term African American residents of Detroit perceive the impact of changes in the greater downtown area of the city.
Changing Dynamics in Detroit
Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, cities in the northeastern and midwestern United States such as Chicago, Newark, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, began to experience deindustrialization and White flight. This led to significant urban decline, contributing to a number of challenges for African Americans living in these cities, including high rates of racial segregation, high unemployment rates, and high poverty rates (Wilson 1987, 1996). Detroit serves as one of the most severe examples of this trend. African Americans began to move to the city in large numbers during the first and second waves of the Great Migration. Yet, as the city’s African American population grew, racial tensions increased. African Americans faced racism and discrimination in all areas of life, and ongoing frustration contributed to the 1967 uprising and the gradual outmigration of White residents from the city (Darden and Thomas 2013; Sugrue 1996). In addition, Detroit began to experience significant deindustrialization. Between 1950 and 2015 the city lost 88 percent of its manufacturing firms, and the number of residents employed in manufacturing jobs declined by 73 percent (Farley 2017). Over time, the city’s population declined, and its current population of about 672,795 residents is less than half of what it was in 1950 (Galster 2012; U.S. Census Current Population Estimates 2016).
As a result of deindustrialization and population loss, Detroit has faced a number of challenges.Population loss, high poverty rates, and high unemployment rates have contributed to high residential vacancy in many of Detroit’s neighborhoods (Farley 2017). In addition, population loss has significantly reduced the size of the city’s tax base (Galster 2012). As a result, the city government has faced numerous fiscal challenges, contributing to the contraction of the city’s public sector (Anderson 2014; Seefeldt 2016). For example, the city has struggled with the provision of basic city services including police coverage and emergency medical care. In 2013 Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to file for municipal bankruptcy (Anderson 2014).
Yet, recently Detroit has witnessed a surge in development, particularly in the greater downtown area. For example, the commercial vacancy rate in the greater downtown area decreased from 27.3 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2014 (Hudson-Webber Foundation 2015). The area also added 1,258 new housing units and 1,754 rehabilitated housing units between 2010 and 2014 (Galster 2017). The cost of housing in the greater downtown area has also increased. For example, the median rent price in downtown Detroit in 2013 was just under $800. By the second quarter of 2016, the median rent price was about $875. The median home sale price in the downtown area in 2013 was approximately $100,000. By the second quarter of 2016, it had climbed to approximately $225,000 (Bai et al. 2016). In addition, the area’s population dynamics are changing. The number of college-educated residents and residents ages 18 to 24 has increased (Hudson-Webber Foundation 2015). After decades of White flight, the city has also seen an increase in its White population. The White population grew from 10.6 percent in 2010 to 13.4 percent in 2015 (U.S. Census American Community Survey 2010–2015).
These trends indicate that Detroit’s greater downtown area is undergoing a gentrification process. Over time, these changes could improve circumstances for the city by reducing poverty and unemployment rates, revitalizing vacant and abandoned properties, and improving resources and opportunities for city residents (Farley 2017). Yet, as previous research has shown, gentrification can have a mixed impact on long-term residents—particularly those with limited economic resources and racial minorities. In Detroit’s case, one particular challenge is that development is occurring in a relatively small area of the city. Galster (2017) argues:
Even if all of Greater Downtown were filled with people, jobs and high-valued properties at much higher densities than currently, the area would comprise only 7.2 square miles of the city’s 139 square miles (47).
Thus, it is unclear whether or not current development efforts will benefit the majority of Detroit residents, particularly its large, predominantly Black population living outside of the greater downtown area.
Yet, as Freeman (2006) argues, residents’ views of gentrification may be complex. While some long-term residents may express concern about the impact of gentrification, others may welcome the possibility of neighborhood revitalization and new opportunities. More research is needed to better understand how long-term, Black Detroit residents weigh possible advantages and disadvantages of development and demographic change.
This article draws upon fifty-three in-depth interviews with African American men and women who are long-term residents of Detroit. Interviews were conducted as part of a larger project on the experiences of working-class and middle-class African Americans in the city. Data were collected between 2013 and 2016. Potential respondents were identified using a survey research company. A random list of African Americans was generated, and letters were mailed inviting potential respondents to participate in the study. In addition, randomly sampled potential respondents received follow-up phone calls from a survey research company inviting them to participate in the study. Additional respondents were also identified through snowball sampling and social media groups focusing on African Americans in the Detroit area.
In order to participate, respondents had to be between the ages of 35 and 45, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and be born in the United States. Respondents also had to have lived in Detroit for at least ten years (the majority were born and raised in the city) and reside outside of the downtown and midtown areas of the city. In addition, respondents had to be employed at least 30 hours a week. Interviews took place at a location that was convenient for the respondent, usually at their home, a public library, or other local public space. I conducted the majority of the interviews by myself; a small number during the early phases of the project were conducted by myself and a research team member. Interviews lasted approximately two hours. Questions covered a number of topics including respondents’ school experiences, their employment experiences, and their current and childhood neighborhood circumstances. In addition, interviews explored respondents’ views about the most significant problems Detroit faces, their perception of factors that contributed to the city’s decline, their thoughts on current development efforts in the city, and their views about the future trajectory of the city. Interviews also explored how respondents perceive the circumstances of African Americans, and what they believe African Americans should do to get ahead in the United States. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded according to relevant themes using Dedoose qualitative data analysis software.
I explore how the respondents in this study think about the city’s ongoing gentrification process. I draw specifically from questions about how they view the development in the greater downtown area, what they believe are the biggest challenges the city is facing, and what they believe the city will be like in five years. I find that respondents have several frames for thinking about the gentrification process in Detroit. Goffman (1986) argues that frames are a way of organizing information. “I assume that definitions of a situation are built up in accordance with principles of organization which govern events—at least social ones—and our subjective involvement in them” (10). Lamont and Small (2008) argue that “every individual’s perception of the social world—of social relations, the class system, race, the neighborhood organizations—is filtered through cultural frames that highlight certain aspects or block others” (80).
I use Goffman’s concept of frames to explore how long-term residents of Detroit perceive the ongoing development in the greater downtown area. I find that their views about the development are shaped by their past experiences in the city and their hopes for its future. On the one hand, most respondents welcome new businesses and residents because the city has experienced such extreme decline. On the other hand, many respondents express concerns about the nature of the development. These respondents worry that development is only meant to benefit a small group of people and is not focused on the neighborhoods in which most long-term Detroit residents actually reside.
Table 1. Frames for Thinking about Development
As shown in Table 1, I identify three specific frames that respondents employ to discuss gentrification in Detroit. The first frame is the “Revitalized City” frame. Thirteen respondents employ this frame and believe that development in the greater downtown area will be a path toward revitalizing the entire city. They have grown tired of navigating Detroit’s problems with crime, blight, and limited public services and are also hopeful that the development will eventually trickle down to the city’s neighborhoods. The second frame is the “Tempered Optimism” frame. The twenty-three respondents employing this frame believe that the development in the greater downtown area may be a step in the right direction for the city. Like respondents who employ the “Revitalized City” frame, they have grown tired of the city’s problems with crime, blight, and public services and are hopeful for revitalization. However, they also express concern that most of the development efforts are concentrated in a small area of the city and that little attention is being given to the city’s neighborhoods. A number of these respondents are also concerned that development efforts may exclude African Americans and city residents with limited economic resources. Thus, they believe that racial and economic exclusion may accompany development efforts. Finally, fifteen respondents employ the “Exclusive Development” frame. They believe that the development efforts in the greater downtown area do not benefit the majority of the city’s residents. They also believe that the development is largely designed to attract White residents or residents with substantial economic resources. As a result, they believe it excludes African Americans and people with limited economic resources. They believe the city should focus on revitalizing the neighborhoods outside of the greater downtown area. In the following sections, I explore each frame in more detail.
Problems Facing Detroit
When I ask respondents about challenges facing the city, there is a consensus that the city has experienced significant decline. All 53 respondents discuss the city’s extensive blight, high crime rates, limited resources, and limited opportunities. For example, Rita, who does custodial work for a local company, has lived in Detroit her entire life. When I ask her what it is like to live in Detroit, she tells me, “It used to be fun, it is, it’s just not the same, it’s not the same no more.” I go on to ask her more about the problems the city is facing. She tells me her neighborhood has lost a number of residents over the years, and as a result has become increasingly filled with abandoned homes and overgrown vacant lots. She explains, “I mean all the neighbors gone, the kids, it’s just you sit[ting] on the other porch, you looking at a whole lot of weeds.” She is particularly concerned about the blight because she believes that it is unsafe. She tells me that she is concerned about her grandchildren playing outside because she is worried about criminals hiding in vacant lots and empty homes. She explains, “It’s dangerous. Now that’s why I say that [the city] should just come and board those houses up. I mean y’all not gone tear them down, at least board them up and keep the grass cut.”
When I ask about challenges facing the city, Nia, a nutritionist who grew up in Detroit, explains that Detroit struggles to bring viable businesses into the city.
I think that some of the biggest challenges are, you know, bringing businesses, viable businesses, you know, into the cities, whether that, you know, be it manufacturing, retail, food, beverages, you know. It’s an assortment of industries, you know, but it’s only a small amount that do business in the city.
Thus, respondents discuss a number of challenges that the city is facing—many that they must navigate on a daily basis. Yet views on whether or not development in the greater downtown area will be a solution to these problems vary.
As shown in Table 1, thirteen respondents employ the “Revitalized City” frame for discussing development in Detroit’s greater downtown area. Respondents who employ this frame believe that development will have a positive impact on Detroit by bringing more business to the city, increasing tourism, and restoring Detroit’s status as one of the nation’s leading cities. Respondents who employ the “Revitalized City” frame believe that development is the solution to the city’s problems. For example, Garrett, a personal trainer, describes Detroit as a “gold mine” because of its location on the Detroit River, a major body of water that separates Detroit and Canada and feeds into the Great Lakes. Similarly Lucille, a teacher, tells me, “…because we are on a, you know, international body of water, I think what’s going to happen is we are going become a real […], real cosmopolitan city.”
Lucille, a teacher, is hopeful that the development in the greater downtown area will eventually lead to the revitalization of other neighborhoods in Detroit. She tells me,
…I also know some of the plans for the city. So I know that a lot of the communities that are blighted will become temporary green spaces. And that there are builders that are going to build from downtown to the new center area and some of those surrounding areas, you know, straight track from downtown to the new center area. And then some of the other communities like my community that have a few, well several, homes that are in foreclosure and empty, that those homes will eventually be occupied.
Lucille believes that the revitalization process may be slow, but she is optimistic about the future of the city and believes that eventually her own neighborhood will be revitalized. She explains, “It’s going to take time, but it’s going to happen soon, I’m keeping my investment here in Detroit.”
For these respondents, development in the greater downtown area offers opportunities for Detroiters. Because the city has experienced severe urban decline, these respondents are excited about the promise of new businesses, opportunities, and activities. In addition, they are optimistic that development in the downtown and midtown areas of the city will fuel development in other parts of the city. This perspective is consistent with research that has argued that gentrification may have a positive impact on cities experiencing decline (e.g., Florida 2012).
However, the majority of respondents do express some concerns about ongoing development in the city. In the next sections, I explore some of their reservations.
Like respondents who employ the “Revitalized City” frame, respondents who employ the “Tempered Optimism” frame for thinking about the development in the greater downtown area also believe that development may help move the city forward. However, they also express a number of concerns. Their primary concern is that development efforts are only concentrated in one area of the city, and most long-term Detroiters reside outside of this area. Thus, they are not convinced that development will improve circumstances for most long-term residents.
For example, Nelson, a custodian, believes that the city has not focused enough on fixing some of the problems in neighborhoods outside of the greater downtown area.
Yeah, um, they’re building up a lot of things like downtown and stuff. I would just like to see (short laugh) them start building stuff in the city, you know, yeah. And that’s what they not doin’, you know.
He goes on to explain that while downtown is “beautiful,” “neighborhoods are like war zones.” He tells me that he has grown tired of seeing neighborhood blocks filled with liquor stores and blight.
Nia, the nutritionist, likes to visit the downtown area with her family and is excited about new development in the area. However, like Nelson, she is concerned about neighborhoods in other areas of the city. She believes the development should not just be limited to the downtown area, telling me, “It’s just unfortunate that when people come to visit all I can say is let’s go downtown.” She explains that people like herself, who she categorizes as “die hard Detroiters,” have little to do in their own neighborhoods. Nia goes on to say,
You know, the city is not just downtown, the city is, is the neighborhoods, you know, it branches out larger than just the southwest Detroit, just the midtown, the, you know, the downtown. It’s like those are the three areas that [they’re] really kind of focusing on. But you have the northeast, you have the northwest, you know, it’s the east and the west. I mean that’s where the heart and the bulk of the people are.
Nelson and Nia’s concerns are consistent with Galster’s (2017) argument that development in the greater downtown area may not lead to revitalization of other areas of Detroit. In addition, consistent with previous research on the challenges of gentrification (e.g., Hyra 2008; Chronopoulos 2016), some respondents employing the “Tempered Optimism” frame are also concerned that the development in the greater downtown area is racially and economically exclusive. For example, when I ask Cherise, a county public health worker, how she feels about ongoing development in the city, she tells me, “I think it’s okay, but I don’t think it’s um, it still seems kind of closed off to some populations to me.” When I ask her who she believes is being excluded, she explains,
Well, lower class. I wouldn’t just say African Americans, but lower class, but the truth is yeah, it would be African Americans as well. And I know I see them down there and stuff, but to me, I’m just saying it feels there is a lot of development but it still feels very closed off. […] So even though people are coming back to the city and they say; oh there’s all these opportunities in the city now, but it’s still not for a lot of people in the city.
Thus, Cherise believes that the development only benefits White people or people with access to significant financial resources.
Brent, a barber, is concerned that development in the downtown and midtown areas of the city is displacing long-term business owners. He explains that he has heard reports of some business owners being pushed out by rising rent costs.
What I don’t like, I don’t like the upraising of the, the developmental corporations on the rent or the leases of those who are actually have been located down there in that area for years. […] It was a report on the news back a few months ago, it’s companies that are actually buying the buildings and they’re coming in and tripling the rent, pushing out the old renters and the old leases, you know. The old leases, they pushing them out and, you know, I don’t feel that that’s fair.
However, Brent does not believe this problem is unique to Detroit. He explains that this often happens when cities experience significant development.
You know, but, that seem like that comes where there is city renovation, I don’t know if that’s, you know, a national thing, that’s known to be a national thing or if that’s just something that’s just happening here. But I hear that and, I hear that there’s a gentrification process in the business world and a downtown part of Detroit. I hear that a lot.
In summary, respondents who employ the “Tempered Optimism” frame express some excitement about the city’s current development efforts. However, they also believe more development is needed outside of the greater downtown area and worry that current development efforts may not be inclusive.
Respondents who employ the “Exclusive Development” frame express many of the same concerns as respondents who employ the “Tempered Optimism” frame. However, these respondents do not express any positive feelings about the development. They do not see any of the development in the greater downtown area as a possible tool to solving some of the city’s problems. Instead, they believe the city’s problems can only be solved by focusing resources on improving circumstances in Detroit’s other neighborhoods. For example, Cyrus, an artist, does not believe that developers are taking the correct approach to revitalizing the city. He believes that community development is the key to lowering the city’s crime rate, increasing opportunities for current residents, and attracting new residents. He tells me,
It starts in the community, you know they so worried about building up downtown. If you build up the communities, the people gonna come back to the city. If the people come back to the city they gone bring they money back to the city which gonna create more jobs in the city.
Marcy, a home health aide, describes the development in the city’s downtown and midtown area as “a waste of money.” She points specifically to the restoration of the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Canada and the ongoing construction of the M1 rail, a streetcar designed to provide transportation around the greater downtown area. She explains that money spent on those projects should be spent on fixing problems in neighborhoods. Specifically, she believes that the money should be spent on cleaning up blight and finding places to house the city’s homeless population.
They spending unnecessary money. They could put all these potholes, all these buildings, hell, put these bums and all these people up in somewhere. They should not have to be living under no—when it’s cold outside and they laying on snow, it’s wet, cold they already ain’t got that much clothing. They need to open more them type of home, assisted living places, that’s what I call them, they need more. Forget the M1 rail.
She believes the downtown and midtown efforts are designed solely to attract tourists, but she jokes “who’s touring Detroit, really?” I ask if she thinks people will consider Detroit a tourist destination in the future, and she tells me that with the exception of sporting events, people that do not live in Detroit “don’t care about coming up here.” As a result, she believes the city should reprioritize its development efforts.
Thus, respondents who employ the “Exclusive Development” frame do not believe that development efforts in the greater downtown area of Detroit will help revitalize other areas of the city or solve problems such as high unemployment, blight, and high poverty rates.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Respondents in this study express mixed feelings about ongoing development efforts in Detroit’s greater downtown area. Thirteen respondents employ the “Revitalized City” frame and believe the impact of the development will be entirely positive and do not express any reservations about the ongoing development. Approximately half of the respondents (twenty-three) employ the “Tempered Optimism” frame, expressing more mixed feelings. While they believe the development in the greater downtown area will help to revitalize Detroit, they also express a number of concerns. Many worry that the development is not focused on neighborhoods outside of the downtown area. This is important because these neighborhoods are home to many of Detroit’s long-term, African American residents. In addition, some respondents employing the “Tempered Optimism” frame are concerned that development excludes African Americans and low-income residents. Finally, fifteen respondents employ the “Exclusive Development” frame. They do not believe that the development efforts in the greater downtown area will help revitalize other areas of the city, and some believe the development efforts are a waste of funds. They believe that the city should concentrate development efforts in neighborhoods outside of greater downtown.
Detroit serves as an important case study for research on the impact of severe urban decline (Silver 2015). Findings from this study reveal that in cities like Detroit, long-term residents’ views about gentrification may not be monolithic. Detroit has been plagued by significant challenges, including high rates of blight, high poverty rates, high unemployment rates, limited job opportunities, and limited public resources. As a result, for most residents in this study, gentrification is not a zero-sum game. For most residents, some potential gentrification is necessary to improve the city’s circumstances. Yet, many are also coming to terms with whether or not development will benefit all Detroiters, particularly the large African American population outside of greater downtown. Thus, they carefully assess how gentrification will impact their lives in the context of the realities of severe urban decline.
It is important to emphasize that most of the ongoing development in Detroit is concentrated in a relatively small area of the city. The neighborhoods outside of the greater downtown area—where most long-term African American residents live—have not experienced the same level of gentrification. Therefore, it is possible that if development expands to other areas, respondents’ views may change. However, findings are largely consistent with Freeman’s (2006) study of gentrification in New York, showing that long-term residents of gentrifying areas do not always view gentrification negatively. Future research on gentrification should continue to explore the perceptions of long-term residents, particularly racial minorities. In addition, more longitudinal research should explore whether or not residents’ views of gentrification change over time.
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 Perez (2004) defines gentrification as “an economic and social process whereby private capital (real estate firms, developers) and individual homeowners and renters reinvest in fiscally neglected neighborhoods through housing rehabilitation, loft conversions, and the construction of new housing stock. Unlike urban renewal, gentrification is a gradual process, occurring one building or block at a time, slowly reconfiguring the neighborhood landscape of consumption and residence by displacing poor and working-class residents unable to afford to live in ‘revitalized’ neighborhoods with rising rents, property taxes, and new businesses catering to an upscale clientele” (139).
 Barton and Gruner (2016) use a combination of increases in average household income, number of residents with some college education, decreases in Black poverty rates, proportion of residents employed in administrative and managerial jobs, age of residents, and increases in homeownership rates to classify gentrified neighborhoods.
 African American people began to leave the southern United States in large numbers beginning in 1910, and outmigration continued until the 1970s. It is estimated that approximately 6 million African American people left the southern United States. This significantly changed the distribution of the African American population. At the start of the century, many northern and midwestern U.S. cities were less than 5 percent African American. However, by the 1970s, many of these cities were between 30 percent and 40 percent African American (Tolnay 2003; U.S. Decennial Census 1900–1980).
 This article includes 25 women and 28 men and 33 working-class respondents and 20 middle-class respondents. Working-class respondents were employed in blue-collar or white-collar jobs and had not earned four-year college degrees. Middle-class respondents were employed in white-collar jobs and had earned four-year college degrees or were currently completing four-year college degrees.
 This project began in 2013 as part of a collaboration with Tawanna Dillahunt at the University of Michigan. We also worked closely with our graduate research assistant, Kennedy Turner. Our initial project focused on exploring how African Americans in Detroit are managing the city’s decline. Our initial collaboration lasted approximately six months, and I continued data collection on my own through 2016.
 At the beginning of the project, I conducted 10 interviews with a research assistant or with [redacted].
 The M1 rail, or “QLine,” is a streetcar that provides transportation around greater downtown Detroit. Construction began in 2014 and was completed in 2017. The project cost an estimated $142 million (Detroit Free Press 2017).
Jessica Welburn Paige, University of Iowa