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Editorial: A much-improved West End

Despite a rather tumultuous arc of development, the city of Providence appears to have established stable footing. A recent Herald article regarding changes in the West End neighborhood points to a far more positive outlook for the city as a whole, particularly within historically crime-ridden spaces. While we acknowledge and remain aware that gentrification often holds rather negative ramifications — specifically with regard to heightened rents and a shift in resulting demographics — the degree of improvement within the neighborhood greatly overshadows these presently unrealized implications. The general improvement of the West End should serve as a paradigm of success within the context of urban renewal.

The present form of the West End is a dramatic departure from its historically unsafe and crime-laden streets. As reported by The Herald, the neighborhood — vertically bookended by Westminster Street and Huntington Avenue — contributed more crime reports than any other neighborhood in Providence and held a recorded median income that was about 14 percent lower than the rest of the city. Despite these underlying obstacles, new residents and small businesses continue to emerge in the area, significantly altering the broader aura and habitability of the West End. At the current juncture, new residents seek to occupy vacant apartments and residences and have in no way altered the character of the built environment, though development projects may occur in the future with more constrained supply.

The overwhelming, albeit unfounded, criticism of the recent West End development stems from the negative impact of gentrification. Though home prices in the neighborhood have indeed risen 11 percent in the past year — undoubtedly a pressing issue in the context of affordable housing — from an economic standpoint, the net transformation in the area eclipses the possible detrimental implications. While pervasive crime has long crippled the neighborhood, the new residents and businesses signal a newfound optimism and contribute to the area’s overall safety and social vitality, a trend most poignantly underscored by the opening of the new West Broadway Middle School.

The recent development within the West End should serve as a model for future improvement in Providence and beyond. While the impact of gentrification must be measured and operate as a point of constant awareness, the current state of the neighborhood represents a success in the realm of urban renewal and a distinct departure from its past crime-ridden identity. We are very much cognizant of the negative implications of gentrification and strongly urge the city to remain aware of the ultimate degree of change, particularly with regard to prevailing market rents. Providence must actively work to support and maintain developments of this nature, and the ongoing mayoral race provides an opportunity to prioritize this very goal.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Natasha Bluth ’15, Alexander Kaplan ’15, Katherine Pollock ’16 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.



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