Transitional neighborhoods are places that are either making a transition to middle class stability or gentrification or they are slowly declining and showing significant signs of stress. These neighborhoods are not poor or crime ridden enough to receive state and federal funding but not stable enough to self-support their own initiatives like middle class neighborhoods. The problem is that these neighborhoods make up most of Baltimore City and I suspect maybe your city as well.
So as a planner how do you tackle a neighborhood that has real issues but will receive no funding to address those issues and generally lacks community support? The burden or working class or working middle class neighborhoods is that they often work the hardest to support themselves and their families. If there are no fires within a community, the issues of today will be put on hold until they become the problems of tomorrow.
Not that residents of poverty stricken neighborhoods have more time then the working class but when your personal safety is always in danger, you will make time to demand a better quality of life. On the opposite end of the scale, middle class neighborhoods often have the most luxury of time due to having more flexible jobs and more active retirees. As a planner the neighborhoods that you deal with the most are the ones that are the most active, which tend to be lower class and upper class neighborhoods. All the other neighborhoods, usually transitional neighborhoods are often overlooked.
I grew up in one of these transitional neighborhoods. At one point the issues of the neighborhood became problems and planners stepped in to prevent the neighborhood from having permanent systemic problems. Fortunately at the time the last legs of the neighborhood association was still kicking to grab the attention of planners. Today, the association is almost non-existent and with no fires in the neighborhood, the direction of the community seems to be blowing in the wind. Since government intervention is often complaint and community response driven, government is very reluctant to step in plan for the needs of a community without having dependable sources in the community.
As planners we cannot force our ideas on communities. We tried that in the 1950’s through 1970’s. It was called Urban Renewal and it didn’t work for residential communities. So if no one is crying for help in these neighborhoods, how could you knock the city for focusing on other neighborhoods since we know the city has bigger fish to fry. It’s hard arguing to the city that they need to focus on the streetscape of one of its main streets when other city neighborhoods are on the losing end of the war or drugs.
While it is understandable that the city with it’s limit resources has to focus on problem areas and protecting it’s middle class tax base, it’s hard to swallow that they have to do this by ignoring all their other transitional neighborhoods. As these neighborhoods goes, the city goes. These transitional neighborhoods are where the bulk of the city lives. If they continue to be overlooked then so will the city. And if these neighborhoods feel that they do not matter then the same will be felt of the entire city.
A structural change needs to occur to make all neighborhoods voices be heard. How do you get a community to be heard when it does not speak? Well, I’m not sure. But if you have a answer, I would be interested to hear from you.