Affordable, neighborhood-serving businesses are integral to socially and economically diverse neighborhoods. When higher income residents move into a previously low-income community, commercial rents may increase and businesses that serve the everyday needs of their communities are more likely to be forced out or replaced by higher-end stores. As neighborhoods undergo this commercial gentrification, longtime residents may no longer be able to afford to shop in their own communities and access necessary goods and services. Cities have a range of policy tools available to keep affordable, neighborhood-serving businesses in communities. These tools range from tax abatement programs for new developments that set aside space for local retail to low-interest loan programs that help businesses buy their buildings and thereby decreasing the risk of eviction due to increases in rent.
Tracking retail gentrification is a challenging pursuit. To approximate this we have used data from Yelp.com which assigns a dollar sign rating to restaurants based on user reviews. When users review establishments, they are asked to provide a personal assessment of the business’ cost. For dining establishments, price range is assessed by asking the per person dining cost: $ (Under $10) $$ ($11 - $30) $$$ ($31 - $60) $$$$ (Over $61). For non-dining retail, cost is assessed using the following: $ (Inexpensive) $$ (Moderate) $$$ (Pricey) $$$$ (Ultra High-End). It is important to note that for that this data is based on Yelp user assessments and is vulnerable to bias. Additionally, for many low income families, a restaurant meal cost $10 per person would not be considered inexpensive.
The data show that in general, the CMTL boundary has a higher percentage of lower cost businesses compared to the city as a whole. However, between 2011-2015, there seems to be a very moderate decrease in the number of one dollar sign businesses in both the CMTL and the city overall. Fortunately, two out of every five businesses in the CMTL area is still classified as inexpensive.
Business and cost data from Yelp (Yelp.com), 2011-2015.