Exploring the "Dog Park" set.
November 13, 2008 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Are "Dog Parks" a new indicator of urban gentrification?

In the sense that the users of urban dog parks (dog friendly parks, where dogs can play leash-free) maybe more affluent, service workers, and participants in neighborhood revitalization.

I'm doing research on gentrification in Chicago, and I'm interested in novel indicators, or predictors of neighborhood change. (Starbucks has been done to death.)

Not really looking for anecdotes, but does anyone have any go-to links, news stories, and the like (citeable sources a plus) that I can examine? Any narrative would be useful.

I'm familiar with gentrifying parts of Chicago, but fuzzy on what neighborhoods in other cities are changing.
posted by wfrgms to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting - but parks require space. Where would the space for something that could be considered a luxury come from? Demolition of derelict buildings with the intent to improve the neighborhood? Mind you, I'm not familiar with Chicago, but I'm just thinking about how hard it is to find much green space in most metropolises I've seen.

What about types of restaurants, or the average meal cost at all restaurants? Looking locally, there are almost as many sushi restaurants as there are Starbucks (in San Luis Obispo, CA - not really a major town, but we have 7 to 8 of each now). Maybe the decline of fast-food restaurants in an area?
posted by filthy light thief at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2008

The appearance of a dog park and a pet retail store and doggy spa in Boston's South End has been seen by some as an indicator of a second wave of gentrification.

The first wave occured when numerous gay men moved into the neighborhood in the early 80's to late 90's and renovated many old brownstones. This was followed by a second wave of empty nesters and young married couples (i.e. N.S.E. = New South End) moving into newly constructed high-end luxury buildings.
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on November 13, 2008

With this second wave of gentrification in Boston's South End gone are tanning salons, a gay bookstore, video rental shops, low-cost eateries, etc. They have been replaced with high-end restaurants, art galleries (with monthly "art walks), luxury boutiques, etc.
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on November 13, 2008

Dog parks are pretty yuppie, though I assume playgrounds to be the true bellwethers of gentrification. Either way, it means a class of young, well-to-do arrivistes now demand their surrounding public space to accommodate their needs.

In DC's up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood, the new residents are petitioning for a dog park.

I don't quite understand the purpose of this website, but it cites a 2000 Chicago Reader article on a dog fight that precipitated demands for a dog park in Bucktown. I wouldn't normally point to such an old source, but it might be helpful gauging how much gentrification occurred 8 years on.

I recommend leafing through one of the countless research books about gentrification's effect on public space.
posted by zoomorphic at 3:52 PM on November 13, 2008

I've been thinking that proximity to specialty grocery stores is a good indicator. Maybe it's just because I love these stores, though.
posted by ctmf at 5:10 PM on November 13, 2008

About seven years ago, the park system I worked for (Oakland County Parks) built the first ever dog park in the Metro Detroit area. It was very popular and so we quickly built another the next year. The thing is, both parks were in very suburban areas, even rural fringe. I don't know Chicago, but my point is that dog parks are not necessarily an urban-only phenomenon. I suppose you'd need to narrow your focus to urban areas first, and then examine dog parks there, as opposed to looking at dog parks in general and then drawing conclusions. (Maybe that's obvious.)
posted by BinGregory at 5:18 PM on November 13, 2008

Dog parks as a sign of gentrification? Sure.

I think the biggest factor in building an urban dog park is that it has to be zero or minimal cost to the city. In the 6 years that it has been open, Baltimore's only legal dog park has received less than $3,000 from the City. We are on a small piece of City-owned parkland and get free water and curbside trash pick-up, but that's the extent of it.

Getting to opening day required years of negotiations with the City, maneuvering through the local political scene, raising the cash needed to fund a large portion of the construction costs and cajoling local companies to donate materials and services to make up the balance. All of these are going to be easier in an area that has affluent, well-educated residents and--this is important--developers who are trying to attract corporate and residential leases/sales.

Now, the volunteer-run 501(c)(3) that manages the park must raise funds and provide volunteer labor or hire contractors to cover ongoing maintenance and any additional amenities or renovations. The group has a yearly memorandum of understanding with the City that documents the park rules and specifies what must be done in terms of park maintenance and management for the City to permit continued use of the land. Again, the resident population is important since it means we have lawyers to help work with the City, professional grant writers to help write grants proposals for funds, a CPA to do the books, etc.

In Baltimore, at least, establishing a dog park requires a level of dedication to the cause that many (even in gentrified neighborhoods) aren't wiling or able to put forth. Without strong, organized community-based support and a lot of sweat equity, it isn't going to happen. FWIW, there are 2 "loose coalitions of dog owners" in gentrified areas of Baltimore who have been working for about 5 and 10 years, respectively, but haven't been able to get dog parks in their neighborhoods in part because they can't rally community support.
posted by weebil at 6:02 PM on November 13, 2008

In NYC, a dog park is very much a sign of gentrification. Big box grocery stores and/or specialty grocers are also a good indicator. Any blocks recently get brand new signs, all in the same design? Are you seeing more bikes chained to posts? Are you seeing bike RACKS, even? And I know you hate to say it, but the reason Starbucks is so heavily tied to gentrification is because it's such a dependable harbinger.

But that's NYC! For Chicago, the telltale signs might be different. Maybe you can find some leads from Chicagoist?
posted by greenland at 8:49 PM on November 13, 2008

I just saw a play in Austin, Texas. The play is set in East Austin and gentrification was a central theme. The urban dog park was the main focal point of the gentrification.

Here is the play. Maybe the author can help you out further:
posted by verevi at 9:42 PM on November 13, 2008

Well, I live in Rogers Park in Chicago. Think the Loyola Red Line stop, and off of Devon between Clark and Broadway.

I knew the neighborhood was changing when the following happened on that stretch of Devon within the past year or so:

1. A pet boutique
2. An independent coffee shop (no Starbucks as of yet)
3. An Uncommon Grounds restaurant
4. A comic book store

All three are suggestive, but taken in combination? Yup, that's some gentrification for you.
posted by Windigo at 7:31 AM on November 14, 2008

I know I've seen other great resources, but here's a bibliography on gentrification.

Also you'd find a ton of ancedotes from other cities if you search 'gentrification' on citydata, which might be a starting point at least.
posted by ejaned8 at 9:23 AM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

In DC's up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood, the new residents are petitioning for a dog park.

Construction has already begun.
posted by inigo2 at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2008

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