The Neighborhood’s Gone Downhill

25 Feb

“Gentrification”–such a weird word. Taking a neighborhood, improving it, then making it too expensive for the original inhabitants to live in. The alternate is to let it rot that even the inhabitants don’t want to live there. Do you take the tradeoff?

I was thinking of Baltimore, because I’ve been reading The Expanse books, which one of the main characters actually faked his own death to get out of. Having worked in Baltimore for six months, I can sympathize. Where I worked was one of the snazziest, gentrified places in the city: Harbor East. Right on the waterfront, yachts, restaurants, walking paths, new buildings–absolutely gorgeous. But it didn’t take much to figure out that they had to demolish a bunch of really old houses in order to build this modern marvel.

In fact, I could walk about a quarter mile and see exactly what Harbor East replaced. Bad neighborhoods that you only dared walk through during the day. Murders every other night and plenty of lesser crimes in between. Downtown even looked shabby compared to Harbor East. This is not that unusual in the world. Even my town of Tempe, Arizona, Apache Boulevard which runs out of Arizona State University used to be where all the fraternities had their houses, liquor stores, and all the low-cost motels for the visitors. Not the nicest of places. Then then ran the light rail through there and poof! All those houses disappeared and got replaced with nicer apartments. Because now those with money could afford to live further away from campus.

The liquor stores shifted to lesser desired neighborhoods or renovated other buildings to fill that gap. The cheap motels were replaced by AirBnB years ago. The frats were moved to a consolidated block years before, anticipating the move. And the poor housing? Moved down the line; they could use the light rail, too, but less conveniently and a longer commute.

To quote one of my favorite movies, “We’re now a nice local bar none of the locals can afford.” Gentrification may be inevitable. You can only live in a new suburb as far out as you are willing to travel for it. Yes, you can take the commuter train from Harper’s Ferry, WV to Washington, DC, if you’re willing to ride for 2-3 hours. Which means it’s more convenient to live closer to where you work.

Or is it? The one good thing about the pandemic is that it finally made companies realize that you CAN work from home for most white collar jobs. So why should a company be based out of New York City when they can save money basing themselves out of Pigeon Forge, TN? You don’t fire anyone and save state income tax. And if the cities aren’t pulling in that income, how are they going to maintain this infrastructure? If the neighborhoods go downhill, why won’t those who can move to Pigeon Forge? We’re already seeing this in California.

Honestly, I’m not against gentrification, mostly because it’s not my neighborhood. I grew up in a small town where the lack of the factory means it’s slowly falling apart. So if a NYC company came to Morrison, started putting up their flat pizza stores and Starbucks, a lot of the locals would complain… but they’d still be local. Then again, I’m more of a gypsy, but what do you think? Is there a balance between gentrification and maintaining the local culture? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “The Neighborhood’s Gone Downhill”

  1. Silk Cords February 25, 2021 at 2:18 pm #

    Have you been to Pigeon Forge in the last decade? 🙂 The traffic is worse there than Manhattan in rush hour, LOLOL.

    That side note aside… Gentrification has it’s causes (IMO) in two areas. The first is the obvious one; developers trying to max out profits. Upscale sells. The second is more subtle but I saw it during my time as a realtor. That’s people feeling they’re ENTITLED to far more house than they can afford. I partially blame HGTV for it. HGTV also illustrates it perfectly though. Every episode of a house hunting show, you’ll hear the client complain that they can’t buy an otherwise perfect house because it has carpet and not high end hardwood flooring. Long story short, it’s greed and unreasonable demands on both sides.

    And to answer your direct question… There SHOULD be some middle ground on gentrification. Some rehab of a neighborhood that preserves it’s feel yet doesn’t break the bank.

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