Not yet a destination

Ben Felder is beginning a series in the Oklahoma Gazette on local urban neighborhoods, and about halfway through the middle of the first installment is a point I’ve tried to make:

“The collaboration between the public-private partnership is vital,” said Grant Soderberg of Square Deal Capital — Soderberg is also an investor in The Windsor Hills Station Shopping Center, the hub of the growing Windsor District in west OKC. “Simple investments in lighting, road improvements and other things from the city can make a huge difference in a neighborhood’s revival.”

Soderberg also said that part of the success of The Windsor District is that it continues to serve many of the low- and middle-class community residents who lived there before revitalization efforts began.

“There is a difference that needs to be made between low-income housing and problem housing,” said Soderberg, noting that many working-class residents benefit from recent commercial growth.

Windsor Hills Station sits on 23rd just west of Meridian; in general, 23rd is the boundary between upscale and down. Neighbors from both sides shop at the Crest Foods store at the eastern edge of the shopping center.

About a decade ago, I wrote about a neighborhood closer to downtown:

Now the roads through there aren’t great, and I suspect the rest of the city’s infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming “Blight!” and calling for intervention. And indeed, there’s room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from “How can we make this area better?” to “How can we get these people out of here?” I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it’s not pretty.

And visitors are often perplexed that upper- and lower-income tracts sit side by side, all across town. A lot of this is simply a function of who did the development, and when. My own neighborhood was developed in the 1940s by Clyde B. Warr, who was relatively, but not ostentatiously, bucks-up; however, we don’t have a full-line grocery store — a Target just up the road comes closest — so often as not, I’m shopping at that Crest store in Windsor.

Addendum: Back in the days when this sort of thing mattered, there was a Windsor telephone exchange covering this area: it reaches just far enough north to include me.





2 comments

  1. Bill Peschel »

    2 April 2015 · 12:12 pm

    Megan McArdle’s been writing recently about this (http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-03-30/why-gentrification-matters), and my wife pointed out that, from her reading on the subject, in lower-income areas, you have a web of reciprocal altruism, built up over decades, among families who know each other and can do each other favors, such as child care, loaning tools and vehicles, and simply watching out for each other.

    Gentrification — as opposed to simple upkeep of roads and sidewalks — destroys these neighborhoods because it forces out families that relied on this network.

    It doesn’t take much to do that. The web can be complex enough that if, say, 10 percent of the neighbors move out, the web starts decaying, encouraging more families to move out. The neighborhood looks better, but at the cost of families who could least afford it.

    At least, that’s what we’re thinking.

  2. CGHill »

    2 April 2015 · 7:57 pm

    This seems to fit with what I’ve observed here. And OKC Neighborhood Services works to encourage that sort of local networking.

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