Rethinking Commercial Revitalization: A Neighborhood Small Business Perspective
Inner-city neighborhood retail development often engenders vigorous popular and political debate about the scale, scope, and location of projects as well as their intended and inadvertent effects for urban landscapes, residents, and consumers. The term commercial revitalization is frequently used to characterize the resurgence of retail activity in neighborhoods previously considered moribund and perilous areas to avoid. In most instances, however, the factors animating commercial revitalization are implicitly assumed and, as such, are conceptually and empirically underdeveloped. This article elucidates commercial revitalization and focuses on the agency of neighborhood small business owners as underexplored stakeholders. Using the extended case methodology, this article examines Black business owners in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, who mounted a relatively successful campaign of retail restructuring by cultivating political clout, establishing civic alliances, participating in neighborhood planning, and promoting the commercial district as an economic and cultural enclave. However, merchants failed to develop mechanisms to sustain their vision and advance commercial revitalization. The article concludes with a discussion of planning and policy implications.
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