Analysis of tactical artifacts within the NPU environment to help residents resist gentrification
Harris, Shawn L.
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Gentrification is a systematic, socio-economic development that has existed as an area of concern within the field of urban design for decades. The most negative impact of this process is its displacement of low-income residents who often find housing unaffordable due to the presence of new commercial developments. This effect, which leads way to an erasure of unique culture and identity, disproportionately affects predominantly-minority communities in Atlanta such as the neighborhoods of English Avenue and Vine City. The creation of Atlanta’s historical Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) system was designed to support disenfranchised communities like these through the creation of a local civic structure where neighborhoods could voice their support, or lack thereof, on local issues relating to licensing, zoning, and land-use. For English Avenue and Vine City, which make up NPU-L, an NPU meeting creates an opportunity for local residents to participate in creating collective resistance to the recent development proposed by commercial stakeholders not only seeking approval from city government but looking to use neighborhood land. While anti-gentrification efforts are often considered from perspectives centered in law, public policy, and city-planning, this study looks to try and approach this large systematic issue using competencies that are relevant to the field and practice of design. The aim of this thesis study is to explore and understand design’s capability to effectively approach the complex, systematic issue of gentrification through the study of the NPU environment and the development of a viable, contextual design solution which could be impactful for the residents of the NPU-L environment. Through the application of design research methods, artifacts used within these meeting spaces have been identified and analyzed for their influence on civic participation. In determining how design can provide support for the civic discourse in this NPU environment, the design recommendations proposed from this study will ideally present more opportunity for development of design solutions in this and other communities also affected by gentrification.