A Conversation on Our Changing Community

(Photo: Will Tracey)

               “What we want to do tonight is take a conversation that’s happening outside of our campus but also inside our classrooms. We also know it is affecting the daily lives, everyday experiences and work experiences of many people as well. Some of us call this gentrification, some of this call this community change, some of us call this the status quo. Whatever the case is, there is a changing nature in our community; there are changing buildings and changing experiences.”

               These were the opening remarks of debate coach and Jon Denzler during “Our Changing Community,” a conversation on gentrification sponsored by The Institute of the Common Good, The Regis University Debate Team, and the Regis University Communications Department on April 4th in the Mountain View Room. Over fifty gathered to hear the reflections of five panelists made of up Berkeley-Regis neighborhood residents. The panelists were Stephanie Navarette, Kristen Barnes, Klaus Holzapfel, Niya Gingrich and Dennis Gallagher.  

               The first questions posed to the panel were, “What have been the most visible changes you’ve seen in the community, and what have been the most invisible changes?”

               Stephanie Navarette, a local renter, and mother of one stated, “I think the most visible change for anyone and everyone in the neighborhood would probably be the buildings and the homes on the blocks. You see a lot of them that are not like the others. My grandparents’ business is gone. That’s the most visible change, I feel.”

               As for an invisible change in the neighborhood, Niya Gingrich, the owner of Local 46 Bar on Tennyson Street stated, “I think this may be invisible to a lot of people, but there’s this push-pull relationship between the growth of the business community and the residential. As a business association, that’s one of the main things we’ve been focusing on, on how we can be delicate with that. And how we can be respectful of a small business community to the residents, and how we can work together.”

               Next, the conversation opened up to a question and answer portion with the audience. Questions ranged from, “What are perceptions about the community that are an issue here?” to “How should people impacted by gentrification support the local business that has been damaging to the culture of the community?”

               When one student posed the question, “Do any of you worry that you may be displaced?” one panelist shared, “I wake up every day worried that I won’t be able to stay in the school district that my son is in. Every day.  For my landlord, it’s not an if, it’s a when is she going to raise my rent so that I can’t afford it by myself because I’m a single parent. It’s a when she’s going to sell her property and have new landlords take it over [. . .] I look at rents, and you can’t get a one bedroom for less than a thousand dollars in this neighborhood. So it’s definitely an everyday fear.”

               Overall, much of the evening’s discussion centered on how our community can break down barriers with one another through interaction, and how we can navigate the complex questions that community change brings with it.

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Maggie Lacey Staff Reporter