If you drive around Rome a bit, and really pay attention to your surroundings, you might begin to notice some major differences between the quality and upkeep of buildings and homes from street to street. Rome’s income is incredibly diverse, and the areas of town where the gap between wealthy and impoverished can be found right outside the Berry bubble.
It’s easy to look at areas which are more run down and wish for them to be “made over”. We’ve all seen the HGTV shows which take more dilapidated buildings and renovate them into sweet, older homes with lots of “character”. While these make-overs are easy on the eyes for citizens of Rome, it leads to a bigger problem: gentrification.
Gentrification is the process of updating or remodeling a home or building in a way which changes its appearance to fit more of a middle-class mold, making it more desirable for more affluent residents that may be moving into the area. You see it in more places than you might initially assume. Gentrification often is masked as an effort to re-model a city, making it more appealing to visitors and future residents.
While it is completely understandable to want your city to be upkept and presentable, there’s a difference between emphasizing the character of your town and completely getting rid of it. Gentrification can be seen when hipster coffee shops, new apartment complexes, or niche restaurants begin to make their way into poor, impoverished neighborhoods. Breaking ground for one of these new venues opens the door for a whole onslaught of prospective entrepreneurs wanting to be the first to make their mark in an “up-and-coming” city. What happens afterwards, however, is the upturning and outrunning of the original residents who can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhoods.
The rising price of building in urban areas has pushed developers to look outside their cities and into parts of town populated by the poor because they, too, could not afford to live in cities. Escaping the city simply to develop a new city, only to push people yet again out of the city seems like a pretty harsh cycle, doesn’t it?
Yes, it is the job of public officials to strive for the betterment of their communities and to always try to ensure the best quality of life for the citizens. However, the problem lies with how that is done. Efforts should be made to improve those underprivileged areas of town in a manner that doesn’t change the already existing character. Improving the city doesn’t have to mean running out citizens who don’t fit the mold of what they want our city to look like.
Next time you’re out on the town, take notice of the different areas of Rome. Beyond Broad Street, there’s whole communities which you wouldn’t necessarily feel the best about calling your college town. They’re the areas of town locals tell you to stay away from at night, and ones which girls are advised not to go to alone. To improve our city, we shouldn’t evacuate those areas. They’re people’s homes, despite the reputation. Rome is just as much those streets as it is Broad Street in its fun coffee shops and desert bars. Kids have grown up there, played in the street, houses have been worn down due to the families that have been brought up in them. If anything, they could use a coat of paint and a new railing.