Recently I attended one of the monthly talks held by Architects for Peace as part of their words@bld50 series of which the topic was Urban Renewal & Revitilisation: A tale of two cities. The talk given by Dr Maree Pardy,an anthropologist who researches in the areas of multiculturalism, gender, and immigrant communities in urban Melbourne, looked at both Footscray and Dandenong, two cities with a rich history of diversity.
The reason for my attendance, was my current involvement in a project in Noble Park and thus I wanted to understand more about what was happening in that part of the world and also I have a soft spot for Footscray as I had lived there for a year a few years back.
I was interested to hear Dr Maree Pardy’s comments on Footscray, in particular was wanting to hear her thoughts regarding the changes that thave been occuring within the suburb. Most of her comments were negative about the changes and this irked me somewhat. What also irked me was some of the questions/comments (architects can never ask a question without including some comment of their own) that raised the issue of gentrification within Footscray and other places within inner Melbourne.
It was almost insinuated that gentrification was a bad thing and one member of the audience even had the gall to put it into the same basket as assimilation. In my opinion I don’t believe gentrification is necessarily such as a bad thing. Places such as Footscray are now getting much more visitors from outside the area and people are discovering the joys that it has to offer.
Footscray, will never be a fully gentrified suburb because it is an area that holds a strong pull for both the Vietnamese and African communities that have and still are residing in the area and it will always have that “roughness” about it. What gentrification has given Footscray is better services and less of a stigma that it had in the past and the need by both local and state governments investing money in what is an important area of Melbourne.
For a much better worded argument than my own, have a look at this article from a few years back.