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An unfortunate but purportedly intentional concomitant of urban renewal has been the displacement of lower-income, usually minority members of urban communities in a process termed gentrification. While these same types of processes have been taking place through humankinds history, gentrification has become especially pronounced in recent years as investors have targeted depressed neighborhoods for revitalization to the point where the residents are no longer able to afford to live there. In response, there have been growing calls for greater local government involvement to prevent already marginalized citizens from becoming the unwilling victims of gentrification. This capstone project provides a review of the relevant literature concerning gentrification and how this process has adversely affected minority communities in general and the Somali-American residents Minneapolis Ward 6 district. A survey of these residents and the findings that emerged are following by a summary of the research findings and the insights that resulted. Finally, based on these findings, the capstone project concludes with an informed answer to the guiding research question together with salient urban planning recommendations that are specifically applicable to Ward 6 but which are also generalizable to other communities facing the gentrification juggernaut today.

Keywords: Gentrification, Somalia, Somali-Americans, Immigration

Research Question: This study was guided by the following research question: What happens to Somali-American families that decide to remain in gentrifying areas?


Abstract, Keywords and Research Question ..

Table of Contents ..

List of Figures ..

Introduction ..

Literature Review ..

Research Methodology ..

Research Findings ..

Conclusion and Recommendations ..

Bibliography ..


This capstone project is about Somali-American communities and the framework of economic displacement/gentrification in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul community with a particular focus on Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. The Cedar Riverside neighborhoods in Minneapolis have been referred to as little Mogadishu due to their significant presence in an otherwise largely white municipality. With more than 25,000 Somalis, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is home to the largest population of Somali-American immigrant residents in the United States and the ninth-largest population of East-African immigrants nationwide.

Not surprisingly, Cedar-Riverside is an astonishing hub of Somali culture that I still hold dear to my heart. Unfortunately, in recent years, it has fallen victim to the same gentrification processes that had already adversely affected and threatened the residential security of its preexisting low-income residents. This problem has been highlighted by the local mainstream media as well. For example, according to Adam Belz, who covers Minneapolis City Hall for the Star Tribune Minneapolis and St. Paul have both gentrified considerably over the past 15 years, with rent outpacing income and more wealthy people attracted to the center of Minneapolis and nearby neighborhoods, and blocks along the Green Line in St. Paul.

These trends therefore beg the question, What happens to Somali-American families that decide to remain in gentrifying areas? In sum, Somali-American families that decide to stay gentrifying areas like Minneapolis Ward 6 may find themselves further economically and publicly marginalized as discussed further in the chapters that follow based on the goal of developing a timely and informed answer to the projects guiding research question, What happens to Somali-American families that decide to remain in gentrifying areas?

Literature Review

Recent Gentrification Trends in the United States

The overarching goal of national economic development is the sustained improvement of the standard of living of citizens together with opportunities for upward mobility and security from external threats, all with a focus on bettering the quality of life for all. For instance, according to the World Economic Forum, The ultimate objective of national economic performance is broad-based and sustained progress in living standards, a concept that encompasses wage and non-wage income as well as economic opportunity, security and quality of life. This is the bottom-line basis on which a society evaluates the economic dimension of its countrys leadership.[footnoteRef:2] It would therefore appear reasonable to posit that the economic development of depressed neighborhoods is highly consistent with this worthwhile objective, a process that has been termed gentrification. According to the legal definition provided by Blacks Law Dictionary, gentrification is a term used in land development to describe a trend whereby previously underdeveloped areas become revitalized as persons of relative affluence invest in homes and begin to upgrade the neighborhood economically.[footnoteRef:3] [2: The Inclusive Growth and Development Report (2017). World Economic Forum, p. 4.] [3: Blacks Law Dictionary (1990). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., p. 657.]

Although this definition connotes a benign and even beneficent process whereby a rising tide raises all boats, the harsh reality of the gentrification process has been the displacement of millions of lower-income Americans who have few other housing options available to them. Moreover, the process of gentrification is becoming virtually ubiquitous across the country, and a growing body of evidence indicates that lower-income residents are being specifically targeted by land developers who are intent on reaping the profits that can be achieved through the gentrification of depressed neighborhoods.[footnoteRef:4] Although these same types of trends are taking place in other countries around the world, gentrification has become especially pronounced in the United States over the past decade.[footnoteRef:5] [4: SJ Harden, E Davis and L Orozco (2018) It\’s Complicated: Placemaking and Gentrification Journal of the American Planning Association. Online: available >>, p. 3.] [5: M Janoschka, J Sequera, and L Salinas (8 July 2013) Gentrification in Spain and Latin America a Critical Dialogue. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38(4): 1234.]

While some types of levels of gentrification have taken place for millennia, indeed since time immemorial, the term was only introduced during the latter half of the 20th century to refer to the use of urban renewal to revitalize economically depressed communities.[footnoteRef:6] Since the 1960s, gentrification has accelerated in pace in cities such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, garnering increasing focus from critics who maintain the process invariably places lower-income residents at a disadvantage to the point where they are involuntarily displaced, frequently with few viable low-cost housing alternatives available.[footnoteRef:7] Indeed, even the growing body of scholarship concerning gentrification underscores the invariable displacement of already marginalized residents as a direct result of the process. Indeed, some gentrification opponents maintain that the term gentrification is simply a more refined and less threatening way of referring to displacement.[footnoteRef:8] [6: E Kirkland (2008, Summer). What\’s race got to do with it? Looking for the racial dimensions of gentrification. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 32(2), 19.] [7: Lehrer, U & Wieditz, T (2009, Summer). Condominium development and gentrification: The relationship between policies, building activities nd socio-economic development in Toronto. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 18(1), 140-144.] [8: Osman, S (2011). The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York. New York: Oxford University Press, 37.]

This assertion is also aligned with the more recent definition offered by Maly who reports that, Gentrification is a process by which the poor and working-class neighborhoods in the inner city are refurbished via an influx of private capital and middle-class home-buyers and renters in neighborhoods that had previously experienced disinvestment and [an] exodus.[footnoteRef:9] Since the exodus from affected communities is typically comprised primarily of lower-income minority members and the influx of private capital and middle-class home-buyers and renters are generally white, the inexorable process of gentrification also involves fundamental changes in the sociodemographic makeup of targeted communities.[footnoteRef:10] [9: Maly, MT (2005). Beyond Segregation: Multiracial and Multiethnic Neighborhoods in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 240-241.] [10: DF Keene and MB Padilla (2010, Fall). Leaving Chicago for Iowa\’s fields of opportunity: Community dispossession, rootlessness, and the quest for somewhere to be OK.\ Human Organization