Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

As "out" groups become mainstream, place-based institutions and affinities are at risk

The Toronto Star has an article, "As the queer community spreads out, can the gay village remain vital?," about the potential decline of the city's Gay Village, as the LGBTQ community becomes more accepted and people feel less need to live in gay-specific neighborhoods to be safe and accepted. (This has been an issue in DC and other cities for a long time.)

Although the article also mentions cohort-specific issues, that the older Gay community may be less conscious of difference when it comes to transgender identifications. From the article:
Like many young LGBT Torontonians, Rosenberg-Lee lives and works in the west end, and he travels to the gay village very rarely, either to attend social events during Pride month in June, or to access transgender specific resources at the 519 community centre or the Sherbourne Health Centre. If these opportunities ceased to exist, he’s fairly certain he wouldn’t visit the village at all.

This is the dissonant truth about Toronto’s gay village. For at least a decade, a lot of young queer life in Toronto has coalesced outside the village proper, in smaller bars along Queen St. W. and Dundas St. W., or in Kensington Market, Parkdale, and Leslieville.

Even though Church St. between Wellesley and Carlton — a colourful strip of bars and clubs offering drag performances and trivia nights — still remains the heart of the city’s gay village and a popular address of LGBT tourism in Canada, it is not necessarily the heart of LGBT activity in the city.
Similarly, I commented on a neighborhood e-list awhile back about the discussion of issues around the "black" Douglas Memorial United Methodist Church on H Street NE as the neighborhood whitens ("Pastors Part Ways After Partnership Between Black and White Congregations Dissolves," Washington City Paper).

The irony of that case is that when the neighborhood became majority black in the 1950s, the then white church had to change its focus to remain relevant in a changing neighborhood.  Now the black church faces change as the neighborhood changes again.

... I was at a conference yesterday where one of the presenters does research on the impact of changing communities ("gentrification") on black churches.

Yes there is impact.  No the impact is not particularly new, even if it remains wrenching to the people and institutions facing change.

But to me these issues are no different from how "mainline" churches have declined in cities as ethnic groups--e.g., Polish Catholics, Lithuanian Catholics, German Catholics, Irish Catholics in Pittsburgh all had their own specific churches, which were place-based, and as people assimilated and moved to de-ethnicized communities those churches declined (see "Churches, community, religion and change").

Most churches follow their congregation as the members move outward (e.g., synagogues especially--first they moved further out into the city's outskirts, and oftentimes later out of the city entirely, as members moved further outward and no longer had residential connections within the city).

These are issues of what the "Chicago School of Sociology" called "ecological succession" as it related to neighborhood, community, and urban change, although then they argued that as people became better off they moved farther away from the center categorically, and as they left, they were replaced by new immigrants who then re-started the same kind of process.

From the Encyclopedia of Chicago article, "Chicago Studied: Social Scientists and Their City":

A second subtheme concerned the changes such succession implied in community institutions. In the 1930s, Samuel C. Kincheloe studied church succession, and Everett Hughes studied the real-estate board. In the 1950s, Morris Janowitz published his study of the community press. Later students were to study hospitals, jails, and cultural institutions. Again and again, the theme was underscored. Community institutions were both stakes and actors in the continuous ebb and flow of ethnic groups.

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