Creating Place: Business, Community Development, and Neighborhood Identity In Shaw/U Street and Anacostia
A sense of place means a neighborhood has a particular feel to it, a particular image. Determining what this sense of place should be involves the concurrent collaboration and conflict between stakeholders in local communities; businesses form a crucial yet often overlooked part of that process. A business’s level of engagement with communities in the neighborhood depended on how tied to the space/location (not place) the business was. This degree of locational linkage depended on factors such as who the customers were, how long the business had inhabited that space, and how integral the stakeholder felt the business was in creating the neighborhood’s sense of place. If there was a strong connection to the neighborhood itself, the character traits that the stakeholder valued (ex. through the mission of an organization) or connected with most (ex. an identity they share with the neighborhood) became their primary avenues for who they viewed as part of their community. Stakeholders could range from business employee to owner, but the more decision-making power that stakeholder had, the more significant the traits they valued were in determining what communities the business engaged with. Furthermore, by engaging more with these communities, businesses further the claim those communities have on shaping the neighborhood’s sense of place. Such claims shift or reify power dynamics and the right to a space, with reverberating effects on spatial justice and equity.
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