The Gentrification Kit

I’ve seen it spread, from the rapidly evolving boroughs of London to the desolate inner ring suburbs of Cleveland to the ancient streets of Istanbul. The polished concrete floors, the reclaimed wood and the fancy Australian-ish origin coffee drinks. I’ve become a victim of these in particular as I’ve descended into a spoiled, speciality coffee brat rather than the Turkish style shot of thick and mud how I started drinking the stuff. But that isn’t the point. These cafes have become markers, flags planted on the beaches like Conquistadors did in times past. They are a way to tell the neighbourhood that the new kids, although perhaps initially small in number, are here to stay.

What happens typically is that other young, typically white, educated and upwardly mobile people see The Cafe and then they start hanging out there, because, well I guess its a new cafe, but maybe most importantly because its made a new place cool. And safe. This is clearly calling for productisation.

The product itself is more of a long-term property development suite really to buy low and sell high. Suppose that large global centre sort of city you live in still has a couple of neighbourhoods that the poor haven’t been driven out of. Well you the property developer can start buying it up for peanuts, and then you open The Cafe and start paying white mothers with actual white babies in prams to go there. Sure, it might take a year or two, but once you put in another cafe, and then an art gallery, you’ve already been able to flip the property you bought for pennies for 25% more. Oh damn, there’s organic baker now? Add another 8% markup.

The main problem isn’t that nobody isn’t doing this, is that an entire industry and way of thinking about urbanism isn’t this honest with itself.