In today’s culture, gentrification has become synonymous with a classist
divide, where wealthier developments overtake impoverished neighborhoods
to make them “hip.” It’s a phenomena that causes poor
individuals to have to give up their homes because they cannot afford
to live in the refurbished buildings. However, Columbus, Ohio is giving
new meaning to gentrification.
Described as “gentrification without the negatives,” a community
of artists have transformed abandoned 400 West Rich Street and have turned
it into something special. The neighborhood was filled with empty buildings,
forgotten and primarily used for illicit activities. However, in 2011,
a group of artists decided to take up residence in an empty factory. According
to artists such as Ralph Walters, the low cost of rent and the open space
gives individuals the freedom and time to be creative.
Growing from initially housing 8 to 12 people, 400 West Rich Street now
offers residence to over 200 artists, who occupy approximately 150 rooms.
As one of the poorest neighborhoods in Columbus, Franklinton has 25% home
vacancy. The abandoned spaces allowed for a high volume of illegal activities,
particularly drug activity. However, since the artists have started inhabiting
the space, there has been a reduction in crime rates.
The space now has:
- Pop-up coffee shops
- An artist that only works with wood art
- Aerial artists
- Painters and sculptors
The neighborhood harbors a sense of creative freedom where artists can
work on their art and display it for others to see. The community is drawing
positive attention, attracting individuals who enjoy art. 400 West Rich
Street offers an example of what gentrification can look like when done
the right way. In this area of Columbus, many of the buildings were already
vacant, meaning nothing was “pushed out” by this change except
for some illegal activity.