There goes the neighborhood

I’ve been listening to a lot of urban planning and community development podcasts lately, and another new one I’ve found that I really like is a series out of WNYC called There Goes the Neighborhood. It’s another public radio show that is well produced, with good talent and insight into the issues facing changing neighborhoods.

The first season focused on Brooklyn, NYC, and the second season has moved across the country to Los Angeles. In both these cases, they look at how issues like gentrification affect long established neighborhoods, both for good or for ill. The most recent episode deals with the arts district in Los Angeles, and how it’s changed. As people want to move closer to the center of things, and be closer to where “cool” things are happening, neighborhoods start changing. A lot of good things can happen when this occurs, like new stores, better access to transit, and lower crime.

However, it also means that property values will start to move up as developers realize that they can charge higher and higher prices for houses and apartments. This is a tough issue for arts districts since many artists don’t make a lot of money, and find themselves priced out of the neighborhood that they helped build by being an artist in the area. In some sense they are the cause of people wanting to be there, yet they have a hard time with the changes that increase how much it costs to live there.

It makes me think of Lowertown in Downtown Saint Paul. There is a thriving arts community in the area with an awesome art crawl festival every year. However, many of the newly renovated apartment buildings and condos in the neighborhood have skyrocketing rent and purchase prices. Many of these artists could never afford to live in these new buildings.

Thankfully, Saint Paul has done a good job at encouraging artist based housing in the area with multiple buildings designated as artist/affordable housing. These buildings have income limitations as to who can live in the building, and each resident must show that they make some type of contribution to the work of art. Hopefully, efforts like this can help a neighborhood keep the character that made it “cool” while at the same time letting the market bring in new and exciting amenities that attract people who like being around art.

Needless to say, this podcast series is a great listen, and I’d encourage folks to give it a try and learn about how places are changing. Maybe even the place you call home right now.

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