Centering environmental justice: Gentrification beliefs, attitudes, and support of park development in a shrinking city

Lauren E. Mullenbach, Sonja A.Wilhelm Stanis, Emily Piontek, Birgitta L. Baker, Andrew J. Mowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In shrinking cities, with large populations of low-income and people of color, redeveloping vacant lots can improve access to the benefits of greenspace, but also spur or accelerate gentrification. Understanding people's viewpoints on gentrification and vacant lot redevelopment in shrinking cities is important, especially as these perspectives may differ depending on people's socioeconomic conditions and proximity to these spaces. One common development of vacant lots is into parks. As such, we assessed people's beliefs and attitudes about gentrification, their levels of support of park development in low-income areas, and differences based on presence of vacant lots in their neighborhood, through an online survey of residents in St. Louis, Missouri—a shrinking city (N = 521). We found that respondents valued investments in their neighborhood, including park development. Specifically, respondents supported signs of gentrification from those investments, but also supported preserving neighborhoods—a potentially contradictory viewpoint. When comparing by proximity to vacant lots, we found some differences in respondents’ views. Further, respondents’ beliefs and attitudes about gentrification influenced their support for different types of development, particularly building parks in formerly vacant lots, if there were not vacant lots present in their neighborhood. Among residents living near vacant lots, beliefs about neighborhood change were unrelated to their attitudes toward gentrification or support of park development—suggesting that abstract beliefs about neighborhood change are not salient to their attitudes and support. These findings have implications for urban planning and community engagement, particularly in shrinking cities where legacies of environmental racism endure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104253
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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