Gentrification

GentrificationAs an analyst I derive a great deal of enjoyment from analysing the things that happen around me in terms of models and generalisations. One phenomenon I see happening all around me at the moment has been given the name “Gentrification”. It’s a controversial topic in some circles.

Urban sprawl describes the way a city grows, usually from the commercial centre (CBD) outwards and into the more rural areas. A teacher once explained to me using the term “urban creep”. A term they must have made up because I can find little information about it on the web.

Urban CreepThe idea is that as a city grows, people move to live in more desirable areas and the areas previously occupied by people eventually become the purvey of business and industry.

As this happens, areas on the boundary between residential and commercial may fall into disrepair and then cycle back from being undesirable into now being desirable.

The way I see it is as zones of desirability radiating out from the centre of the city in concentric circles.

Gentrification is said to have occurred when a previously undesirable area (usually in the CBD) becomes desirable again.

Urban CreepTake, for example, the place where I live now. I am told by those in the know that Emily place (near Fort Street) used to be the place to be once upon a time.

Then, as the decades marched on, Fort street and all the areas thereabouts fell into disrepute. It became a red-light district and associated with all the social ills that go along with that sort of place. It was undesirable to live so close to the city, people moved out into the suburbs to get away from the pollution, traffic and noise.

Time marched on, and it started becoming more and more expensive to live in the city. Buildings became abandoned, and became stuck in that awkward state where they’re too expensive to own, but not desirable enough for people to go through the prohibitive expense to make them useable again. You will have seen these buildings: the derelict building covered in graffiti, nestled between high-rises. The old-fashioned villa sticking out obscenely between modern office blocks.

Digger in action at nightThe above pictures were all taken in anticipation of the day when one such building near where I live would be torn down and replaced with something else. That day came unexpectedly in the form of a loud crash outside my window at night.

I awoke, grabbed my camera and groggily snapped a few pictures of the work underway.

They were using an earth-mover (digger, scoopy thing) in order to pull down whole chunks of wall, revealing beautifully detailed graffiti (tagging) that had been meticulously painted onto the wall by people with way too much time on their hands.

GentrificationThe effect is not unlike a geological dig: the discovery of a pharaohs tomb in the heart of the city.

No doubt they will flatten the area eventually and build some apartments, car park and maybe a coffee shop and the metamorphosis will be complete.

For now, it’s a vivid way of illustrating the growing pains of a vibrant city centre.