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Aaron Passell

Thu, Sep 30, 2021    6:30pm

Preserving Neighborhoods: How Urban Policy and Community Strategy Shape Baltimore and Brooklyn

Lecture by Aaron Passell, Associate Director of the Urban Studies Program at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Historic preservation is often regarded as an elitist practice and historic district designation is assumed to lead to gentrification and rising property values, displacing longtime residents of color. Preserving Neighborhoods complicates this story, exploring how community activists and local governments use historic preservation to accelerate or slow down neighborhood change. In Baltimore, it is part of a primarily top-down strategy for channeling investment into historic neighborhoods, many of them plagued by vacancy and abandonment. In central Brooklyn, neighborhood groups have discovered the utility of landmark district designation as they seek to mitigate rapid change with whatever legal tools they can. The contrast between Baltimore and Brooklyn reveals that the relationship between historic preservation and neighborhood change varies not only from city to city, but even from neighborhood to neighborhood. Whether or not neighborhood groups succeed in their stated goals, the designation process often functions as a community-building one.

Passell is an urban sociologist interested in the built environment as a social process. His work examines the political-economic, social, and cultural dynamics of urban and suburban development and neighborhood change. Aaron is Associate Director of the Urban Studies Program at Barnard College, Columbia University, where he teaches a range of courses and supervises undergraduate research. He is also the author of Building the New Urbanism: Places, Professions, and Profits in the American Metropolitan Landscape (2013).


Organized as part of the Preservation Lecture Series, an initiative of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP. Free and open to the public. Virtual events hosted on Zoom Webinar do not require an account to attend.

GSAPP is committed to providing universal access to all of our virtual events. Please contact hp@arch.columbia.edu to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.