In July 2019, CU Denver Urban and Regional Planning Professor Jeremy Németh and Alessandro Rigolon from the University of Utah's Department of City and Metropolitan Planning (formerly the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) published a study in the journal Urban Studies titled "Green gentrification or ‘just green enough’: Do park location, size and function affect whether a place gentrifies or not?"
Recent research shows that the establishment of new parks in historically disinvested neighborhoods can result in housing price increases and the displacement of low-income people of color. Some suggest that a ‘just green enough’ approach, in particular its call for the creation of small parks and nearby affordable housing, can reduce the chances of this phenomenon some call ‘green gentrification’. Yet, no study has tested these claims empirically across a sample of diverse cities.
Focusing on 10 cities in the United States, we run multilevel logistic regressions to uncover whether the location (distance from downtown), size and function (active transportation) of new parks built in the 2000–2008 and 2008–2015 periods predict whether the census tracts around them gentrified. The study finds that park function and location are strong predictors of gentrification, whereas park size is not. In particular, new greenway parks with an active transportation component built in the 2008–2015 period triggered gentrification more than other park types, and new parks located closer to downtown tend to foster gentrification more than parks on a city’s outskirts. These findings call into question the ‘just green enough’ claim that small parks foster green gentrification less than larger parks do.