March 25, 2018 - mh9868a

Research Design

Research Puzzle

Today, big cities like New York and Los Angeles are on the forefront of Americans’ minds. They love fantasizing about moving to big cities and getting swept up in the exciting, fast-paced lifestyles. Also, many politicians tend to focus on big cities in order to improve the lives of the millions of people who live in those places. However, this focus on big cities often leaves small town America behind. Often, people in small towns grow up and move on to bigger things. So, in order to catch up with allure of big cities, many small towns are trying to improve and expand so they can become attractive more diverse generations. That way, the younger generation will be more inclined to stay. However, these significant changes are costly to those who still live in these towns. Therefore, I would like to ask, what does revitalization in the United States socially and economically mean for small towns? Specifically, I am investigating the recent efforts to revitalize the town of Salem, NH. Therefore, I am looking at community nostalgia, infrastructure changes, and generational divides within Salem to investigate the meaning of the Tuscan Village revitalization project. In order to generate data on these topics I will use old newspaper archives, interviews, and Tuscan Village planning papers. Finally, I want to bring understanding and meaning to the forgotten small towns and their efforts to revitalize and stay relevant to their communities.

I am planning to conduct interpretivist research on the Tuscan Village revitalization efforts in Salem. Specifically, I am looking at community nostalgia, infrastructure changes, and generational divides within Salem to investigate the meaning of revitalization. That is, I want to look at the lack of nostalgia the community feels for the historic Rockingham Park horse racing venue that was torn down late last year. As a major New Hampshire and Salem legend, I am interested in seeing how the community reacted to its dismantling. Also, I want to look at the infrastructure that will be changed in town because of new traffic accommodations for the Tuscan Village. Because the Tuscan Village is a massive new shopping complex, town officials are estimating a substantial increase in daily traffic on the already crowded central road, Route 28, and the surrounding Massachusetts-New Hampshire border highway. Lastly, I want to investigate the generational divide in the reactions Salem community members have to details of the new Tuscan Village. I am interested to see which age groups are excited and hopeful for revitalization and which age groups are looking down on the project. To do this, I will use interviews, newspaper articles, and official Tuscan Village planning documents to find the meaning of small town revitalization in Salem.

Literature Review

In order to understand the meaning of revitalization in American small towns, I first need to understand other attempts at small town revitalization, small town urban geography, and memory and nostalgia within communities. Before I can understand the changes going on in Salem, NH, I must first understand what scholars have said about small towns.

Firstly, I have decided to focus on examples of other towns’ revitalization efforts. That way, I can apply their strategies and information to my project. In his essay, “Small Town Revitalization Planning: Case Studies and a Critique,” Richard A. Cohen analyzes the common issues in small town revitalization. He writes that one of the biggest issues for revitalization in small towns is the big city mindset. That is, many developers try to design projects based on what they would work in a city, but those ideas would not necessarily work for a small town. Also, these development  plans are often based on economics which leads to incorrect physical scales. Basically, developers for small town revitalization projects need to fix their large, urban defaut plans to fit the scales for small town accommodations. Furthermore, in her essay, “‘The Circle of Friendship’: Agriculture, Cooperation, and Diversity in a Small Town Revitalization Program, 1926-1930,” Deb Hoskins argues that revitalization fails when women and people of color are left out of the new revitalization program. That is, a revitalization program needs to be designed for the benefit of everyone living in a town, not just one target population. This is because the participation of these groups of people is necessary for new businesses to survive. One demographic is not enough to keep a business afloat, even in revitalization. Ultimately, Hoskins is advocating for cooperation between developers and customers when designing a small town revitalization project. Therefore, these two authors agree that revitalization does not succeed if planning does not include different populations, developer cooperation, or accurate scales.

However, in order to create a successful revitalization effort, in their essay, “The Revitalization of New England’s Small Town Mills: Breathing New Life into Old Places,” Zenia Kotval and John Mullin argue that successful revitalization in New England mill towns involves innovation, expertise, and financial competence. If mills qualify for revitalization, then developers need to come up with a stable plan using regional interests to keep locals engaged in the old space. Often, in these small New England towns the success of the town depends on the state of the mills. If the mills are no longer in use, the towns will struggle to survive. So, it is necessary for the entire population to come together to transform the mills into  something everyone in the community can use and enjoy. However, Kotval and Mullin explain that revitalization is not an easy process. They say that, “there are potentially ‘deal-killing’ impacts at every stage of the development process,” but that these issues are worth it in the long run. These efforts are worth because everyone in the town will be able to enjoy the revitalized mills, and the town will prosper again. Furthermore, in her essay, “Predicting Success or Failure on Main Street: Urban Revitalization and the Kentucky Main Street Program, 1979-1999,” Christa A. Smith argues that revitalization in small and medium sized towns could be achieved if historical themes from town were incorporated into the development plans. She writes that revitalization can help struggling small towns become economically successful again. Smith found that the residents of the town were more receptive to the revitalization when they were in a suburb of a city. However, she also says that small towns away from big cities were receptive to the new, prosperous retail areas. Also, local politicians benefited because the revitalization process for citizens more involved in politics. Overall, these authors agree that small town revitalization is possible, but that it needs to be done carefully in order to succeed.

Another aspect of revitalization in small towns is the urban geography of the town. This aspect of revitalization is important because densely populated areas have different geographies that could be affected by revitalization in different ways. In her essay, “Rematerializing Geography: the ‘New’ Urban Geography,” Loretta Lees argues that the new urbanism has stemmed from the culture of the surrounding geography. That is, twentieth century towns are changing with the new emerging culture. If the people in towns change, then so will the geography of the towns. Furthermore, she says that the new urban geography has had a focus on materialism in an urban setting. She writes that many urban geographers consider this to be a modern, twenty-first century take on urban geography and revitalization. That is, new, modern retail opportunities are involved in many twenty-first century revitalization projects. While she suggests holding onto some of the town history, Lees goes against Smith’s argument when Lees writes that town history should not an idea, but not a focus, for revitalization efforts. Overall, the urban geography of a town, including its retail space, is often a reflection of the culture within that space.

In addition to new studies of culture in urban geography, the subject is starting to be studied in a new light. That is, some social science researchers are comparing urban geography to biology. In his essay, “Retail Fragmentation vs Urban Livability: Applying Ecological Methods in Urban Geography Research,” Orit Rotem-Mindali argues that retail attractions bring people into certain cities. His writes that modern urban geography is often centered around new retail spaces, and the towns’ economies were dependent on these spaces. Rotem-Mindali compares a retail environment within a town center to an ecosystem. That is, the habitat of retail urban geography is the retail space, with the consumers acting as the organisms in the habitat. Furthermore, he explains that the retail centers in urban areas often become over crowded because of competition. This is in an effort to concentrate customers and community members to one specific area in town. Thus, creating a retail geography within town. Furthermore, in his essay, “Urban Geography Evolving: Toward an Evolutionary Urban Geography,” Russell C. Weaver argues that there is a connection between new urban geography and Darwinism. Basically, he is trying to create a “general theoretical framework that can underlie an evolutionary urban geography.” To do this, Weaver explains that urban neighborhoods and their towns are separate environments that work together to create one, bigger ecosystem. Overall, these two author both compare urban geography to biological ecosystems. Thus, they are attempting to create this connecting to better understand the field of urban geography. Lastly, all of the authors in this section agree that there are emergences of new ideas in urban geography.

The third idea related to small town revitalization is memory and nostalgia within a community. In his article, “Past Time, Present Place: Landscape and Memory,” David Lowenthal argues that the past is not only remembered, but is also ingrained in the new spaces we create. That is, we are always creating new environments based off of collective nostalgia for old environments. He specifies that the presence of nostalgia in a community often depends on the population of senior citizens in that community. That is, the more seniors that live in a community, the higher the nostalgia will be. Also, he argues that the in the twenty-first century, more recent history like the 1950s are more popular with nostalgic people. So, something that is over one hundred years old is not necessarily as popular as antiques from more recent decades. When describing why antiques invoke such nostalgia among people, Lowenthal writes, “features and patterns in the landscape make sense to us because we share a history with them.” That is, people become attached to historical antiques because they connect in some way to these items because of their own personal pasts.

Similarly, in their article, “Progressive Nostalgia in Novel Living Arrangements: A Counterpoint to Neo-traditional New Urbanism,” Helen Jarvis and Alastair Bonnett argue that people create their living environments based off of their nostalgia for the better times of the past. That is, they write that nostalgia is often connected to urban revitalization projects. Furthermore, they write that nostalgia and community development often cause concerns. This is because planners want to create something new with the revitalization, but there is also a push to include nostalgic elements in the development project. Additionally, they write that the nostalgia can be used to preserve historical importance. When developers do decide to include elements of nostalgia, the project can be more hopeful for the community. Along with this idea, in his essay, “Rooting Culture: Nostalgia, Urban Revitalization, and the Ambivalence of Community at the Ballpark,” Peter Benson argues that people are often torn between their feelings of nostalgia and their desire for revitalization. That is, he writes that many people, when faced with revitalization, yearn for at least a small connection to the past. Specifically, he writes that nostalgia brings a, “‘community’ of “small towns’ will bring relief from feelings of alienation.” In other words, a new development having a connection to the past will help make older generations feel at ease with the change. Therefore, all of these authors agree that it is important to include nostalgia in revitalization because it has significant impact on revitalization efforts.


A: Mapping for Exposure

In order to analyze the effects revitalization has on small towns, I am going to conduct interpretivist research in the town of Salem, NH. Originally, I was going to focus on the social and economic effects shopping malls had on towns, but when I conducted my research, I realized that this discourse was not important in Salem. Instead, I found that more people cared about the changes revitalization was going to bring to town. So, I decided to change the focus of my research. That is, I am now going to conduct interviews with the citizens of Salem to see how they feel about the Tuscan Village revitalization project going on in town. Specifically, I am looking at the ethnographic discourses of community nostalgia, infrastructure changes, and generational divides within Salem in order to investigate the meaning of revitalization. I want to see how the community will benefit or be disadvantaged by the Tuscan Village. That is, I am researching how, if at all, the culture of Salem, NH will change because of revitalization. I need to be careful not to allow bias in my research because I grew up in the town I am researching.

As a researcher, I will remain neutral on the idea of revitalization in Salem so I can avoid bias in my research. It is also important to stay neutral so that I do not influence my interviewees in any way or somehow lead them to a certain response. Also, it is important to be ethical when conducting these interviews because, for the most part, I interviewed people I was already friendly with in the community. Therefore, I need to make sure that I do not lead them to a certain response they think I want to hear.

The first resource I will use to generate data for my research is interviews I have already conducted with members of the Salem, NH community. To generate data, I will listen to the recorded interviews and draw conclusions based on the answers the interview subjects gave to my questions. This is the source where the bulk of my research on generational divides will come from because of the generational differences between the interviewees. Also, I will conduct discourse analysis on local New Hampshire newspaper archives. To do this, I have to contact Salem’s library to find out how I can access those old files. Ideally, I would like to find newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s during Rockingham Park’s heyday and close to its demise in the early 2000s. These newspapers will give me broad insight into the lack of nostalgia for Rockingham Park. Another resource I will use in my research on revitalization is the Tuscan Village planning papers. Online there are documents that show images of the proposed areas in the Village such as storefronts, townhomes, apartments, and entertainment spaces. These papers can help me understand what aspects of the Tuscan Village will be good social spaces for people of certain generations. Additionally, these planning papers can offer insight into what the infrastructure changes that will be made in the surrounding area of the Village. That way, I can see what changes will have minimal effect on the community, and which changes will have a more substantial effect on the community.

The actors producing the discourses I am studying are the community members of the town of Salem. Specifically, I am looking at different generations of citizens in Salem, NH to find out how they feel about the Tuscan Kitchen revitalization project. The actors I am interviewing are also the ones that will be affected by the revitalization project because it will cause changes in town, and those change will affect the lives of the citizens who live in Salem. While conducting research, I interviewed members of the town hall’s Community Development division. The people who work in this division of town hall hold more power in this revitalization project because they actually have input on what can and cannot be included in the Tuscan Village space. Also, the people I interviewed who are more active with voting and attending town hall meetings had more power than those who neglected the democratic system because those who participated in government had their voices heard by policymakers.

B: Context

In order to understand the town of Salem, one must first understand the citizens who make up the town. Firstly, according to the New Hampshire Community Employment Security site, most of the population in Salem is white. Also, almost 90% of the population has a level of education of at least a high school diploma. Additionally, the cost of living in New Hampshire is high due to the state’s has very high property tax because New Hampshire does not have sales tax. However, this high cost of living leads to a higher than average theft rate in Salem. Lastly, the only two attractions in Salem are Canobie Lake Park and the Mall at Rockingham Park. Thus, Joe Faro, the owner of the most upscale restaurant in town called Tuscan Kitchen, decided to create a new big shopping and community attraction called Tuscan Village to bring “tremendous social economic impact for southern New Hampshire.” That is, Faro  says he is building the development for the overall benefit of the town.

The Tuscan Kitchen revitalization project is replacing a New Hampshire and New England icon- Rockingham Park Race Track. The racetrack was torn down so that the Tuscan Village could be built on the giant plot of abandoned land that was once home to beautiful gardens, gambling, and horse racing. According to Douglass W. Seed and Katherine Khalife in their book, Salem, NH Volume II: Trolley, Canobie Lake, and Rockingham Park, say that Rockingham Park was drawing large crowds during its racing in the 1930s. The park continued to draw large crowds until the 1980s, when its popularity started to decline because of  its temporary closure due to a fire in 1980. After the fire, the track was sold to new owners, Rockingham Venture Incorporated, who owned the failing park until its official closure in 2009.

Understanding the importance of Rockingham Park is necessary in order to understand the context surrounding the Tuscan Village. The race track was a part of the identity of Salem for decades, even after it closed down. The building was still standing, but it was sitting empty on the massive property. Unfortunately, tearing down the building meant tearing down the last relic of Salem history. However, the historic park became an untouched, dilapidated part of town that was going unused despite its growing surroundings. Therefore, I am looking at 2018 Salem, NH during the time Tuscan Village is being constructed. In my research I am hoping to find meaning in the revitalization and the changes it will bring to the people of Salem.

  1. Evidence Generation and Data Analysis

While I was back in Salem, NH for winter break, I conducted interpretivist research to gather information for my project. I choose interpretivist methodology because I wanted to try to find the community’s meaning of revitalization. In order to this, I conducted interviews with several members of the community from different generations. Before I could carry out those interviews, I first had to choose who I was going to talk to, and where we were going to meet. In their book, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, Peregrine Schwartz-Shea and Dvora Yanow write that securing a person to interview does not necessarily give a researcher full access to their source. That is, access depends on the researcher’s relationship to the interviewee or source. In my case, I conducted semi-structured interviews mostly with people in town whom I already knew. That way, it was easier to gain their access and their trust. Also, with the interviewees I did not know, it was helpful that I am a citizen of Salem because that often instilled their trust in me. Furthermore, the interviews I conducted helped me generate data on what citizens of Salem thought about revitalization in town. These interview sources are appropriate for my project because they give me real in situ insight into the thoughts of the community of Salem.

Also, to generate more general information about the revitalization project I will be looking at planning papers to see what the details of the Tuscan Village project are going to be. That is, the planning papers available online show the retail, residential, and common space areas they are building on the property. I will conduct a discourse analysis on these papers to draw information on what the different spaces will mean for the community.

To allow for intertextuality, I will make sure to conduct interviews with people who both agree and disagree with the plans for revitalization. That is, I will try to represent both groups of thought on whether or not Salem will benefit from Tuscan Village at all. That way, I am not receiving one, biased opinion of revitalization. Additionally, to allow for exposure to multiple meanings I will find out what each interviewee feels the meaning is for Tuscan Village in Salem. That way, I will be able to assess how different age groups assign meaning to the concept of revitalization.


After changing the course of my research based on information from interviews, I have decided to conduct research on the Salem, NH community’s meaning of revitalization. Specifically, I am looking at community nostalgia, infrastructure changes, and generational divides within Salem to investigate the meaning of revitalization.To do this, I will conduct interviews, analyze planning documents, and analyze newspaper articles in order to generate data on the views of the people of Salem. Finally, I want to bring understanding and meaning to the forgotten small towns and their efforts to revitalize and stay relevant to their community members.



Works Cited

Benson, Peter. “Rooting Culture: Nostalgia, Urban Revitalization, and the Ambivalence of Community at the Ballpark.” City & Society 17, no. 1 (June 1, 2005): 93–125.

Cohen, Richard A. “Small Town Revitalization Planning: Case Studies and a Critique.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners 43, no. 1 (January 1, 1977): 3–12.

Fey, Tina. Mean Girls. DVD. Directed by Mark Waters. Toronto: Paramount Pictures, 2004.

Hershberger, Andy. “Rockingham Park Demolition Begins.” WMUR, May 5, 2017.

Hoskins, Deb. “Negotiating ‘The Circle of Friendship’: Agriculture, Cooperation, and Diversity in a Small-Town Revitalization Program, 1926-1930.” Agricultural History 76, no. 1 (2002): 82–105.

Jarvis, Helen, and Alastair Bonnett. “Progressive Nostalgia in Novel Living Arrangements: A Counterpoint to Neo-Traditional New Urbanism?” Urban Studies, March 8, 2013.

Kotval, Zenia, and John Mullin. “‘The Revitalization of New England’s Small Town Mills: Breathing New Li’ by Zenia Kotval and John Mullin.” Accessed February 24, 2018.

Lees, Loretta. “Rematerializing Geography: The ‘new’ Urban Geography.” Progress in Human Geography 26, no. 1 (February 1, 2002): 101–12.

Lowenthal, David. “Past Time, Present Place: Landscape and Memory.” Geographical Review 65, no. 1 (1975): 1–36.

Rotem-Mindali, Orit. “Retail Fragmentation vs. Urban Livability: Applying Ecological Methods in Urban Geography Research.” Applied Geography 35, no. 1 (November 1, 2012): 292–99.

“Salem NH – Community Profile | Economic & Labor Market Information Bureau | NH Employment Security.” Accessed March 8, 2018.

“Salem, New Hampshire (NH 03079) Profile.” Accessed March 9, 2018.

Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Dvora Yanow. Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012.

Seed, Douglas W., and Katherine Khalife. Salem, NH Volume II: Trolleys, Canobie Lake, and Rockingham Park. Vol. 2. 2 vols. Images of America. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 1996.

Smith, Christa A. “Predicting Success or Failure on Main Street: Urban Revitalization and the Kentucky Main Street Program, 1979-1999.” Southeastern Geographer 42, no. 2 (2002): 248–61.

Weaver, Russell C. “Urban Geography Evolving: Toward an Evolutionary Urban Geography.” Quaestiones Geographicae 33, no. 2 (2014): 7–18.

Essays / SIS Research Project community / economics / ethnography / historical / malls / newengland / research /

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