Is Raleigh ready to talk about gentrification? City to hold free talk Thursday.

After postponing its last attempt, the city of Raleigh is ready to try talking about gentrification again.

The city is holding a free panel discussion Thursday six months after it postponed an event on the same topic. The poster advertising the December event was criticized by community members and some Raleigh leaders for being inflammatory.

The panel begins at 6:30 p.m. at the A.J. Fletcher Theater at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, at 2 E. South St. downtown. Registration is not required.

It will be moderated by Kristen Jeffers, the founder and editor of The Black Urbanist, a blog about “design, urban planning, transportation, architecture and life as a black woman in the modern world.”

Gentrification can mean different things to people, but it’s typically defined as the revitalization of an area by new, wealthier people displacing longer-term, poorer residents, often people of color.

Traditionally black neighborhoods outside of downtown and in Southeast Raleigh have been gentrifying for years. As the city continues to top lists of best places to live — Wake County adds more than 60 new people a day — long-time residents are being priced out of the places they’ve called home.

Nearly 70% of Raleigh residents polled in the city’s 2018 community survey said affordable housing is one of the biggest issues the city will face over the next five years.

Last month, The News York Times highlighted Southeast Raleigh as an example of census tracts near city downtowns that are becoming whiter after years of being home to people of color.

The panelists for Thursday’s event are:

  • Kia Baker, executive director of Southeast Raleigh Promise.
  • Asa Fleming, president of the N.C. Association of Realtors and Realtor for Allen Tate Realtors.
  • Yvette Holmes, vice president for resources development and partnership for DHIC, Inc.
  • Paul Kane, executive vice president and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County.
  • Pamela Wideman, housing and neighborhood services director for the city of Charlotte.

This new panel comes six months after the city postponed a city-sponsored event called “The promises and realities of gentrification: the case of North City.”

“Marketed as the savior of the city, gentrification has become an increasingly popular redevelopment strategy in the urban core,” the poster for the event said. “This talks draws on interviews with residents and community leaders in a gentrifying neighborhood in St. Louis to tell the story of how the reinvestment process has reshaped the physical, social and cultural environments in a particular St. Louis neighborhood and how these changes have affected the lives of locals.”

“Has gentrification saved this community? Drop by to find out,” it said.

The advertisement of the previous event did not go through the proper protocols and a small talk aimed at urban and design professionals was deemed not the best venue for a discussion of gentrification, city staff members said in a previous interview.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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