Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 75 ›› Issue (2): 426-442.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202002015

• Culture and Tourism Geography • Previous Articles    

Commercial gentrification in the inner city of Nanjing, China

SONG Weixuan1, SUN Jie2(), CHEN Yanru1,3, YIN Shanggang4, CHEN Peiyang5   

  1. 1. Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Key Laboratory of Watershed Geographic Sciences, CAS, Nanjing 210008, China
    2. School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 101408, China
    4. School of Geographical Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023, China
    5. School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, Jiangsu, China
  • Received:2018-08-30 Revised:2019-11-01 Online:2020-02-25 Published:2020-04-25
  • Contact: SUN Jie
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771184)


Commercial gentrification has been a research frontier of gentrification. It refers to the phenomenon that the traditional business, residence or industry is replaced by business with higher value in the city. Its connotation includes: (1) renovation and renewal of commercial environment and material landscapes; (2) realization of the rent gap of commercial space; (3) the upgrading and succession of business and consumption culture; (4) advanced replacement of business and consumer groups. The social spatial characteristics of commercial gentrification show differences in different countries and regions, for different stages, modes and regulatory environments of urban development. Under the influence of economic globalization and western-style consumer culture, traditional residence or community business was replaced by restaurants with exotic customs, bars, cafes, gyms, and other high-end consumer places, which mainly meet the growing needs of the middle-class consumer groups. They gathered in the specific space of the city since the end of the 20th century. This is the typical commercial gentrification in China, which is a business upgrading and replacement process that meets higher consumer demand. Commercial gentrification in China has a more intense process, as well as a wider range of impact, than that in European and American countries. The paper conducts a kernel density analysis of the six high-end entertainment establishments in the inner city of Nanjing in 2008 and 2018. The result shows that: (1) the "hot spots" of commercial gentrification first appear in the traditional commercial centers and historic conservation areas, and then spread to the periphery of commercial centers and new commercial areas; (2) according to the difference of practice path, commercial gentrification in inner Nanjing can be divided into three modes of holistic implantation, invasive succession, and transformation and upgrading, which are respectively represented by 1912 blocks, NJU-NNU area and Xinjiekou area. Both economic and cultural forces play an important role in promoting the evolution of the three modes of commercial gentrification. The process of commercial gentrification is driven by both the supply side and the demand side, including the facts that local government and capital join hands to pursue commercial rent gap, as well as that young and high-income gentrification groups have a growing demand for fashion and high-end consumption. Commercial gentrification has promoted the business vitality and economic benefits of the city. Also, it has affected the authenticity of the historical blocks, the inclusiveness of the commercial space and the fairness of the space production to a certain extent, for its exclusion and displacement produce effects on the residents, and the low-end business and consumer groups. Commercial gentrification involves cultural identity, quality of life, consumption experience and status symbol, meaning that it has more complicated social spatial connotation than residential gentrification. Consequently, it is urgent to conduct a more systematic study on the phenomenon of commercial gentrification in China.

Key words: gentrification, commercial gentrification, middle class, rent gap, displacement, Nanjing