Much of the mainstream discourse on the gentrification of established, historic quarters omits two key factors. First, gentrification requires gentry—namely, a sufficient number of persons of means who wish to live in a given historic neighborhood rather than in houses with gardens and private parking on the urban periphery. Second, the theory and practice of heritage conservation is often assumed by theoreticians, professionals, urban planners, and others to require costly interventions to the built fabric and urban spaces of selected historic areas, which are treated either as a collection of monuments or raw material for major urban transformations.
In the interests inter alia of socio-cultural continuity, cultural diversity, and social inclusiveness, this paper questions the assumptions underlying these factors, challenges the inevitability of gentrification, and illustrates how working with existing communities allied with the oft-neglected but core heritage principle that “the best conservation often involves the least work and can be inexpensive” can avoid adverse socio-economic impacts and negative profiling of heritage conservation.
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