Ethics and architecture: Gentrification – The good, the bad and the ugly; Jim Thomas

The last 50 years have been tough for US cities, St. Louis more so than some others. Struggling to survive, cities have worked hard to stabilize and revitalize their neighborhoods. Yet such efforts are often flashpoints for conflict, with overtones of racial and class antagonism and accusations of “gentrification.” Can the generic good of neighborhood improvement actually be bad, even ugly? Can we revitalize neighborhoods in ways that are fair and inclusive? How have public policies and opinion about neighborhoods, low income housing, historic preservation and, in the future, green building shaped the debate?

Jim Thomas came to his interest in neighborhoods and architecture growing up in a restored 1830s home in a historic district of Alton, Illinois. His parents restored the home in the 1950s before historic preservation became trendy. He has been committed to living in mixed income, racially integrated neighborhoods since he moved to St. Louis after graduating from college. For almost 20 years (1981-2000), he was editor and publisher of a newspaper for the Gay and Lesbian community, a community noted for its involvement in neighborhood revitalization and historic preservation. He was executive director of University City Residential Service from 2002 to 2005. He currently does freelance consulting work on communications strategy and organizational development.