The urban middle-class typically does not invade new neighborhoods in one fell swoop. In many cases, more economically marginal subgroups of “trend-setters”—often referred to in popular literature as “urban pioneers” although that term carries with it racist aspersions—are the first to arrive in gentrifying areas. Although these groups may not have high incomes, their high educational or occupational status (i.e., high cultural capital) qualify them as marginally bourgeois. In many cases, these individuals are young and live in non-family households, and thus have a higher tolerance for perceived urban ills (such as crime, poor-quality schools, lack of amenities like shops and parks, and the presence of disadvantaged racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups) that may dissuade middle-class families.
As the number of “trend-setters” grows, they create amenities valued by the bourgeoisie, particularly service establishments such as new bars, restaurants, and art galleries that serve the gentrifying group’s demographic, residents with a similar outlook and greater amounts of capital may follow. This group, in turn, further adds amenities and investment to the area, increases local property values, and paves the way for more risk-averse investors and residents. The first newcomers, priced out of their newly fashionable neighborhood, move on to adjacent areas, where the process often begins anew. In this theory, the classic sector model of urban residential succession—essentially that neighborhoods “trickle down” from one socioeconomic group to another, with the wealthiest residents moving linearly outward from the Central Business District—works in reverse, but the “invasion-succession” process proceeds in a remarkably similar fashion.
“Gentrification” (from Wikipedia.org)
We’re doing this all wrong in our neighborhood. Boring, white families like mine are supposed to wait for the gays and artists/hipsters to move in, attract the coffee bars and restaurants, and make the ‘hood suitable for the family with 1.5 children, 2 dogs and cat.
The gays made their mark in Dupont, did quick work in Logan Circle, and now, I assume, are focusing on the Shaw area. We could have been next, but maybe our massive federal buildings, mixed-used commercial developments, and sights of white folks—especially females—walking their dogs at night do not present the blighted, forsaken neighborhood for which they are looking.
More accurately, developing transitional areas will require new forces due to the evolution of social attitudes. “Gay ghettos” were not formed from the migration of gays into inner city districts just looking for affordable property. These areas, abandoned by white heterosexuals during “white flight”, often were more likely to allow a community of social minorities to grow and develop a safety net of resources and businesses. Moreover, prevailing attitudes also oppressed gays regardless of economic or racial class.
As acceptance, even embracement among some strata, spreads across all generations, is the gay community no longer the central, congruous force that drives beneficial gentrification in once-forsaken areas?
“In the context of the gay community, gentrification not only represents a change in neighborhoods, but a change in the movement itself. As gays and lesbians become more concerned about upscale social outlets than social justice, many people left behind will be wondering what happened.
The same is true in the gay racial context. As members of the white gay community become more integrated into the hierarchy of the privileged, LGBT people of color will become increasingly disconnected and disaffected. The same people who were supposed to be allies in the struggle may soon become enemies. Are we ready for that change to happen?”
I am curious as to the differences of “gay gentrification” in the Shaw neighborhood as compared to Dupont and Shaw. Are there less gay, white males? Are incomes lower; occupations less corporate? Is there a larger proportion of lesbians?
As tolerance grows, does sexual persuasion become less of a defining marker in terms of urban neighborhood demographics (giving way to the old standard-bearers: race and household income)? This raises some pretty important issues—many of which the gay community will have to address on its own.
…when our corner liquor store, and its prime, urban location, becomes an Austin Grill or Fuddruckers, I am going to direct the finger of blame at the effects of an open-minded Generation X that has allowed the gayborhood to dissolve. The days of us heteros ostentatiously remarking at the 18th Street Lounge about how moved we were by Brokeback Mountain are so passé. Future generations will be amazed at how long we allowed the discrimination of such a large segment of the white population. It’s a Chuck and Larry world, now.