Gentrification Part II: Living Downtown

A while back I drafted a post on white flight and gentrification part I. Below is part II of my thought regarding this matter.

Thus far the 21st century has made it pretty darn cool to move downtown….Or for some, a return to the inner city, a place once thought by some to be an unthinkable living place with its racial and ethnic minorities. Recent studies have shown that not only are younger folks moving closer to the hood, but the same is true of those who have reached retirement age. Cities such as my current one (Houston) and my former one (Little Rock), have invested a great deal of money in developing and renovating their downtown. The new slogan in Houston is ” inside the loop.” The loop is a defined zone noting a bourgeoisie culture South of Interstate 10, west of  freeway 59, and inside the 610 loop.

Inside the loop is the new aspiring dream for those who are firmly fit for upper middle class status. It brings with it an array of shopping centers, dining options, and expensive living centers. There is an element of prestige that goes with living “inside the loop.” It presses upon the masses of suburbanites that an inner looper is cooler, far trendier, and far more in touch with what is “IN.” It also reminds those who live in the suburbs that there is a new distinction of class. There was a time when a suburban Houstonian might turn his or her head down on an inner-city dweller. The image of gang infested blocks, or bums on the street after a hard day of drinking and begging seemed too beneath the suburban vanguard of middle class people. After all, those in the suburbs had achieved the American dream: A house with a yard; neighbors of the same class and race to worship with on Sunday; well manicured lawns to impress the ladies club come Bridge Tuesday. Yes!!! The dream was met. The notion of racial polarization was set. Thanks to the consumer decade of the 1950s, domestic house wives could feel safe in their homogenous community, as they worked the latest innovations in kitchen appliance.

However, by 2000 an interesting trend developed. Though urban sprawl continued to increase since the construction of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, a younger and trendier group of people are rebelling against the mass conformity of their parents. Growing up in white homogenous communities, a new population of young hip white adults are returning to the hood. Well, what was once the hood. After decades of receiving an excellent upper middle class education in property rich school districts, young post-graduate professionals have drawn certain conclusions: They do not want to live the life of their parents. This inner loop trend is a bit more diverse with a growing young black  crowed and the expansion of the gay and lesbian population. This is particularly true of Houston.

Gentrification comes at a price; I am not talking about the cost of a small downtown loft. It has created an interesting trend of migration. In Houston, a number of the once homeless population that found places to reside in the inner loop, are now being pushed out. City ordinances in Houston do not allow for the homeless to reside in street alleys or beneath an unoccupied overpass. Urban renaissance cities are campaigning to bring in more downtown businesses and residents. And while that is great for the local economy, I guess it says something when we as a society are more concerned with our fancy way of living than the social conditions of society. A number of once inner loop homeless citizens have now migrated to the suburbs.  I hate that I am part of this problem. I am trying to figure it out.

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3 thoughts on “Gentrification Part II: Living Downtown

  1. I have been saying this for years… when I taught civics i used some of this same info… We also Live in a downtown loft in 1994… pioneers…

  2. I’d be interested to see a study of how gentrification has impacted local business in these communities. For example, while I lived in Project Row Houses in the Third Ward, I heard lots of conversation about how business in that area were prone to fail because the young professionals (i.e., me and my ilk) preferred to travel a few minutes further to get to Midtown or Montrose to shop, dine, etc. As the lower class gets pushed out of the inner city, so do those businesses which serve them?

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