After surviving a car crash, a fish fry owner finds her store in disrepair and smelling of rotting fish. Without access to resources to clean her store, she sets up shop on the sidewalk to make ends meet. On the same block, a florist sells fake flowers because he lacks the capital to purchase refrigerators to sell real flowers. These small businesses located on the same block in Northside Richmond, VA are a microcosm of the inequalities present in this city. As gentrification accelerates, many minority businesses and residents lack the resources to respond. This research gathered evidence on the ways in which various actors have worked to bridge this gap with the goal to determine where improvements, if any, can be made. The methodology consists of conducting and analyzing eight interviews with government officials, nonprofit leaders, and residents in order to determine the process of development decision-making and its effects. These interviews focused primarily on the gentrification occurring in the Church Hill neighborhood and the role that various actors had there and in the city as a whole. These projects reveal an absence of government, as their priorities mainly involve large-scale development projects, and little strategic vision for the city’s neighborhoods. The development process as constituted does not adequately address current challenges of inequality and displacement leaving residents with inadequate resources to adapt to these changes. This paper presents a normative framework for development decision-making that seeks to mitigate the negative effects of these rapid changes and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable residents. To achieve these goals, this framework calls for an empowerment of government and a radical rethinking of public authority to include robust, democratic inclusion of neighborhoods and marginalized residents in the development process with the goal of producing just outcomes.



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