Gentrification, revitalization, discussed in York

Christopher Dornblaser

On Friday evening, Baltimore filmmaker Jude Lombardi screened her short documentary "Gentrification (k)NOT" to a small group of concerned York-area citizens as part of a YWCA York Racial Justice Film Series. The second of three films was part of the program called  "Revitalize Without Gentrifying."

Friday night in York G(k)Not Movie and Panel Discussion

The film showed revitalization efforts in Baltimore, and how gentrification may play a role in those efforts.

Gentrification is when a different class moves the new area, and reshapes its culture, or causes higher property values, which in turn could displace some of the current residents, who may not be able to afford to live there anymore.

Dr. Erec Smith, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, teaches a class at York College of Pennsylvania, Thursday, October 6, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

Event facilitator, Erec Smith, a rhetoric professor at York College, said the event was meant to educate the community about gentrification.

"We don't want them to be left behind," Smith said.

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Preventing gentrification: After the film, a panel discussed revitalization and gentrification.

One question posed to the panel was how to go about revitalizing a community while avoiding gentrification. The consensus was that community involvement is vital.

One of the panelists, Blanda Nace, vice president of community affairs for the York County Economic Alliance, said it's important to have respect for those who might oppose a new or proposed revitalization project. This is their home, their sense of place and being.

"Remember the identity," he said.

Nace said there may be "naysayers" speaking out against any development proposal but those voices are what help to make a revitalization project stronger.

Lombardi shared similar sentiments, emphasizing including the community and what its members' wishes, adding that fear of conflict emerging can halt cooperation.

Panelist Shilvosky Buffaloe, interim director of economic and community development for York City, also focused on community involvement.

Economic & Community Development Director Shilvosky Buffaloe presents his community action plan during the Alliance of Neighborhood Associations' monthly meeting at Martin Library in York City, Monday, March 21, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"A lot of times when you go to start a project, you get enamored by a pretty picture... but typically you want to have, at the impetus of that project, someone to be involved, concerned, and engaged about having not just what the building and the fabric of the envelope looks like, (but) what the inhabitants are going to look like that interact and utilize that space,"  he said.

Another panelist, Peter Levy, a professor at York College, said models to guide people on revitalization without gentrification don't fit with every community.

"It's never going to be the same, every community is different," he said.

Like the others, he agreed community participation is important, noting that if the efforts are being done exclusively from outside the community, it most likely will not work.

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Trust: Another issue discussed was creating trust between those trying to revitalize the area, and the inhabitants of that area. Nace noted how it is essential for people to become involved in the process. He mentioned the upcoming Yorktowne Hotel renovation project as something people of the community are involved with.

"Not necessarily because it's mandated, because we want to," Nace said.

Lombardi stressed it was important that people can see the trust through actions.

"I think it's in your doing," she said, adding that a developer's actions must reflect the community's wants and needs.

Nace also took issue with the media representation not helping to build trust between the citizens and the people looking to revitalize. He referenced how those displaced by the building of PeoplesBank Park were happy, but he said the no one was reporting on that.

"That doesn't help the story," Nace said.

The screening and discussion was the second in a series of three YWCA York Racial Justice film events. The next one will be "Putting a Halt to the Preschool to Prison Pipeline," featuring the movie "Strange Fruit Redux." For more information, check here.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.