Public Park Maintenance Investment and Gentrification: A Study of Philadelphia’s City Parks

Authors: Stephen Dickinson*, Temple University
Topics: Environment, Urban Geography
Keywords: green gentrification, parks, public spaces, public space investment
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines whether the type and amount of investment in public space improvements relates to neighborhood change, including gentrification outcomes, through a city-wide study of the neighborhood parks system in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This research aims to understand how existing park spaces can be improved without causing residential displacement and gentrification. Previous research shows that major investments in parks substantially contribute to gentrification. However, little research has explored how the nature of that investment may exacerbate or minimize these outcomes. This study examines how to improve green spaces without spurring gentrification through the following research questions: 1) How does the type of investment in urban parks shape its potential to create residential displacement and what are the mechanisms of that investment? 2) What factors at the community and city scale mitigate residential displacement in neighborhoods around improved parks? This study will utilize a mixed-methods approach involving a big data analysis. First, a GIS analysis incorporating demographics and investment data will be conducted at the Census-tract level across the City of Philadelphia to compare neighborhoods between 2000 and 2018 to determine which neighborhoods gentrified during this time period. Second, Google Street View images will be analyzed using a neural network to identify changes in the built environment consistent with gentrification near Philadelphia’s neighborhood parks. Finally, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with key informants and community members for 3 neighborhoods that gentrified during the study period to examine the processes associated with different types of investments.

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