Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Community Planning


Community Planning

First Advisor

Marshall Feldman


In studying gentrification, commentators observe that upper income groups are attracted to historic districts inhabited by lower income groups, and which are forced to leave because of rising prices, rents, and taxes. Does this mean that all historic preservation efforts lead to displacement of lower income groups? This study looks at the Providence Preservation Society Revolving Fund program in the Armory District on the south/west side of Providence, Rhode Island.

After a review of the literature on gentrification and neighborhood change, a time series study from 1950 to 1990 traces changes in the census tract which encompasses the Armory District and three comparison tracts. Census data are used to trace changes from 1950 to 1980 to establish the status of the four tracts in 1980 when the program began. The indicators are: median income and income distribution; percentage of blacks, the largest minority this period; population change; housing tenure; and condition and value of housing. These indicators are measured against national and/or city norms. Preliminary 1990 census data are supplemented by other sources: city directories, advertised rents, house sales and building inspector records for the period after 1980. Revolving Fund data profile of in-movers.

The weight of the evidence shows little sign of gentrification. The real median income of Tract 13 did not rise; rents and sales prices are competitive with those of comparison areas; and, most telling of all, the number of minorities, particularly hispanics, grew dramatically. Those who took part in the Revolving Fund program were disproportionately engaged in managerial and professional occupations, are young, and single or in small households. These characteristics fit the stereotype of gentrifiers, but this stage of life is also typical of households most likely to move, according to other theories.



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