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Keeping Small Businesses in Place

Steve Brigham / Blog


When we think about gentrification – or displacement – it’s usually presented in terms of residential communities that are usually at risk, most often working class and BIPOC neighborhoods in urban and semi-urban areas. Yet, those are not the only populations at risk.

Small business owners of color, many who have anchored communities for years, can be equally at risk in commercial corridors that are also gentrifying and may find it very difficult to maintain their long-time businesses in the face of increasing rents and other costs, newer, more well-resourced businesses that move in, and wealthier – and often, whiter – households that have different market expectations and tastes.

PEA has been honored to work with the Small Business Anti-Displacement Network (SBAN) at the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth for two years starting in late 2021.

SBAN is made up of organizations across the U.S. and abroad that work to prevent displacement of BIPOC- and immigrant-owned small businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods. You can find their website here -

The organizations in the network include policymakers, nonprofit advocates, technical assistance providers, real estate developers, financial institutions, scholars, and small business owners, who share knowledge and collaborate to advance innovative policies and practices that keep small businesses in place. SBAN members work at the national level and in neighborhoods and cities across the United States and internationally (in the U.K.).

Our role from 2021-2023 was to help launch the initial engagement phase of the network and to convene SBAN members regularly on Zoom to share the challenges and successes of their work, learn about anti-displacement tools, and strategize about ways to support small businesses that are vulnerable to gentrification pressures.

Over these two years, we convened and facilitated more than 50 meetings with SBAN organizations from twenty cities, including Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Austin (TX), Philadelphia, New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, DC, among others.

SBAN leadership collected and published dozens of strategies and tools for the network, which were vetted, refined, and considered across these four dozen meetings. You can visit the network’s interactive toolkit here.

We also helped SBAN’s leadership to collect and analyze member data about what worked in the first phase of engagement to help develop a game plan for engagement in the next phase of work in 2024-2025.

SBAN also conducted action research in partnership with organizations in 11 different cities to study efforts to preserve small businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods. This resulted in a case studies report they published at the end of 2023, Keeping Small Businesses In Place: Voices From the Field.

Solutions explored in these case studies included community property ownership, culturally relevant technical assistance, Main Street models, new types of small business loan financing, unionization, construction disruption assistance, and cultural heritage preservation.

Three of the case study sites were featured in SBAN’s companion film, We’re Still Here, spotlighting efforts in Miami’s Little Santo Domingo (The Allapattah Collaborative), Chicago’s Puerto Rico Town (Puerto Rican Cultural Center), and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and East LA. (Inclusive Action for the City).

We are proud of the work we supported for the Small Business Anti-Displacement Network and are thrilled with how robust the network is that has emerged during this time.

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