Gentrification is Happening Rapidly in Raleigh, and Its Effect’s Aren’t Always Positive

By: Jo Rochelle

Dusty’s Detail Shop/Service Center is an auto detail place on the corner of West and Lenoir streets in Raleigh. It’s been there since the 1980’s, and for the tenants of the predominantly African-American neighborhood located there, Dusty’s has done more than service cars–it’s serviced the community.

Barbara Dewberry, her husband, Dusty, and friends pack up meals for about 45 seniors across southeast Raleigh every Friday. Leftovers are put in to-go plates for anyone who wants to come by. And on Thanksgiving and Christmas, an entire feast is cooked for friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, all of the love and service the couple has provided Southeast Raleigh has recently come to an end.

In 2015, developer James A. Goodnight bought out Dusty’s with the intentions of remodeling it for a new tenant. They closed their doors on March 1 of this year. And they’re not the only people in the area affected by development–a New York development company has started building townhouses across the street from the former detail shop, and a condominium project, a block away, is in the works. Said condos would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $600,000.

This is a pattern that can be seen all over the US. Poor, predominantly Black areas are bought out by developers to build, among other things, more expensive housing–housing that is so expensive, in fact, that the original tenants can’t afford to live there anymore. It’s called gentrification–defined as the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste. What’s even more interesting than the class shift in gentrified areas is the racial shift.

In 2010, information designer Eric Fischer mapped the Raleigh area by race, using data from the 2000 census. A red dot represents White people, and blue represents Black people. Similarly, green is Asian, orange is Hispanic, and gray is Other. Each dot represents 25 people.

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This is what the Wake Forest area looks like:

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There are very clear geographic clusters and divisions. Is this a result of gentrification? It’s likely. Minorities are displaced because of development projects like the ones in Southeast Raleigh, and when those minority groups are displaced, who else is going to occupy those areas? You guessed it: white people.

Gentrification doesn’t just affect living situations and the geographic distribution of race. It even extends to the education system. Generally speaking, gentrified areas have higher property values. Higher property values lead to higher property taxes, and those taxes go towards funding public schools. This means that for public schools in areas with higher property values, more resources can be made available to students. But wait–if gentrified areas are often predominantly white, then the students to whom these improved resources are made available are mostly white. Meanwhile, schools in rural areas that have yet to fall prey to gentrification–schools that are usually predominantly non-white–are typically poorer, with fewer resources. And so a vicious cycle is continued, with certain groups at an advantage, and others struggling to catch up.

And what about Dusty’s, and other places like it? Places that are influential to their surrounding communities? Nothing good, I’m afraid. In the case of the service shop, the development company looked for a new location that wouldn’t break the bank or displace someone else. Nothing could be found.

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