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.