The city of Stamford is currently in the midst of a construction boom that began after a massive $4 billion redevelopment project, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, was approved in 2007. Development en masse is not new to Stamford; however, this time there is widespread concern and skepticism regarding the scope of development and the effects it will have on the city. These concerns are part of a larger trend in Fairfield County. While some believe development will lead to gentrification, others believe it will lead to “ghettos”.
While there are valid concerns about development in Stamford and Fairfield County, these two beliefs are examples of how the concepts of development and gentrification have been demonized in Stamford and Fairfield County and thus are used to oppose any development larger than a house.
The belief that development in Stamford will lead to gentrification is based on a more general belief that development leads to gentrification, rather than on what is really happening in Stamford. Unlike other cities, large residential developments in Stamford are required to reserve 10 percent of their units for affordable housing.
This helps create mixed-income neighborhoods and allow low-income residents in an area with heavy development to access the new residential units. Developers also have the option to pay the city a fee in lieu of including affordable housing units on site. The money is then used to fund, build and support affordable housing in the city. These efforts have been successful and have allowed many residents to afford to live in Stamford. Agencies such as Charter Oaks Communities are also mitigating the effects of large developments by building affordable housing across the city.
At Zoning Board meetings, residents have expressed their concerns about gentrification in emotional speeches, often claiming companies such as Building and Land Technology (BLT) are gentrifying their neighborhoods and destroying their suburban lifestyle. Other residents have taken their concerns outside city hall and protested against development.
However, the argument that Stamford’s neighborhoods are being gentrified completely ignores the aforementioned efforts to mitigate displacement and other efforts by developers such as BLT to preserve historic buildings and homes. Contrary to their arguments, more affordable housing units are constructed when there is development because of Stamford’s requirements to build affordable housing.
The argument that their “suburban lifestyle” is under threat promotes a false notion that Stamford is a suburban community. Stamford is by no means suburban — it is a city of almost 130,000 residents and home to countless corporations. In fact, many of Stamford’s downtown buildings were built in the construction boom of the 1970s and 1980s, when companies moved out of New York City.
Similarly, the argument that development will lead to “ghettos” is based on the false belief that cities are places where “poor people” live. Development has not led to ghettos or made the city poorer. Rather, it has revitalized neighborhoods and put Stamford on the map. Nowadays, Stamford is compared to larger cities such as San Francisco and Chicago for the number of corporations it houses, its linguistic and racial diversity, a large immigrant population, a high quality of education and a high standard of living. According to recent data, the mean and average household income has increased to $128,00 and $81,000 respectively. This is the highest mean and median household income of any city in Connecticut, and it is one of the highest in the nation.
The development of large buildings has also increased Stamford’s grand list (taxable property) to over $21 billion, second only to Greenwich in the state. This data is in direct contradiction to any notion that the city will become poorer with more development, since a larger grand list and the revenue from fees related to development allow the city to expand its budget and, thus, help more residents.
The categorization of development in Stamford and Fairfield County as a force of gentrification or impoverishment is a false narrative. In reality, development in Stamford is a success story that larger cities in the country can only dream of. Development has been a good investment for both Stamford and Fairfield County and, despite popular belief, it will not lead to gentrification or ghettos.
Michael Hernandez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.