Thursday, December 06, 2007

Creating your own nightmare

Successful organic redevelopment of mixed use neighborhoods is a long slow process that requires multiple types of people with very diverse sets of needs and objectives. The most typical model is a simple model where the neighborhood becomes cheap enough for adventurous, risk loving individuals can buy in to conduct low margin businesses that add to street life and provide a baseline of services (coffee shop, newspaper boxes etc.). Artists usually play this role, and they bring in street life, attention and 'buzz' which means a little more money, a little more perception of opportunity and security, and thus a new wave of people with slightly more risk aversion but still risk accepting as a whole. Rinse and repeat through several cycles until the neighborhood gentrifies.

The Pittsburgh City Paper is telling the story of a micro-neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Polish Hill, which is looking to build that type of redevelopment pattern. My favorite dive bar in the world is in Polish Hill, and it is a great little high density, mixed use neighborhood.
And by one measure, at least, property in the neighborhood is moving faster this year than it has at any time in the past several years. According to a check of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for real estate, it's been taking just over one month for a Polish Hill property to be sold after it is first put up for sale. Last year, it took roughly four months, and in 2005 and 2004 it took between two and three months.

Could Polish Hill be the next South Side or Lawrenceville?...

Unlike those increasingly trendy neighborhoods, "Polish Hill is still mostly a bargain," she contends. "The affordability, proximity to the universities and Downtown, and the views are key factors in recent interest,...

one of the three properties that Joseph Reichenbacher has under contract, he hopes to bring new investment to the neighborhood: His Project 53 Musician Resource Center, currently run out of a handful of basements, provides a free music library, instruments and lessons for kids. He hopes that it will expand to include activities like recording and silk screening. He also plans to connect potential sellers with close friends who are interested in buying places in Polish Hill.

"[Polish Hill] is one of the last real hopes for community and ... working towards a common goal -- a more self-reliant existence," he said. He is, in fact, concerned about what might happen to Polish Hill if it becomes a trendy place to live. "I want a diverse neighborhood. I'm really afraid of gentrification."
If Project 53 and similiar projects are successful in attracting attention and activities, they will produce the pathway of gentrification. Success will doom his vision of the neighborhood.

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