Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cool is Cheap

So feeling nostalgic, I started reading Bikesnob's blog again, which I first discovered by reading an interview with him in a cycling magazine way back in '07 or '08. The first post I read was this: about young people migrating to cities like Portland, and Austin. While the people migrating to cities like New York are old dudes, providing the 'calcification' of cities like New York.

This cycle is not unknown in Melbourne and I feel at some point needs beating. The post linked to Freakonomics, whom are famous for breaking down 'causation' and 'correlation' cases of mistaken identity. But in this case I feel they have got it wrong.

Certainly gravity applies to young people's choice in which city/suburb etc to live in. The more young people in a place, the more likely young people are to live there. However, before this is the issue of rents, something Earthsharing Australia a think tank I am occasionally involved with staged a film comp on just such a phenomena.

They called it 'The Gentrification Game'. Similar to such phenomena as prole drift (which curiously, is not a phenomena in Japan, everyone can consume 'exclusive' brands without an ipact on the brand equity) but more in the opposite direction, gentrification is where a low rent area atracts a bunch of people with dubious incomes.

An area like Saint Kilda in Melbourne was at one stage, low rent, attracting artists and musicians to live there. They inevitably have an impact on the character of the neighbourhood, attracting monikers like 'cool' and 'funky'. Over time these become assets to the neighbourhood, and attractive to people with money.

Thus gentrification begins. Demand to live in such neighbourhood increases, eventually landlords get wise and up the rents. The poor artists, move on to browner pastures (which they again coolify) and people with money move in and displace them. Funky-cool cafes open up on the main drag attracting more uncool people, until young people have to be bussed in to actually be baristas because they can't afford to live anywhere near the clientelle.

Increasingly what once was a happening place becomes a strip with the appearance of being happening but in reality containing only expensive restaurants and cafes.

Meanwhile you see a migration of the cool people towards other cheap suburbs. Brunswick and Sydney Road is gentrifying, I am sure soon to be followed by High Street, Yarraville will most likely gentrify, if it hasn't already, it is too far for me to really spend a great deal of time in, and Footscray and other western suburbs is an open question, because I'm fairly sure Melbourne house prices are going to tank, putting a brief hiatus on the gentrification spread.

I have heard it said that 'Castlemaine' is the new St Kilda, and it isn't even in Melbourne. This is a tragic state of events if the happening places of the future will be in places away from the happening infrastructure.

But then again, I don't see why not, thanks to the internet you can get posted just about anything anywhere. People seem averse to having actual audiances, or viewing anything through something other than a computer screen, so perhaps you don't even need a population to engage in dialogue with.

Who knows, soon it may be desirable to live in Yass, or Detroit or somewhere else with almost know hope of supporting jobs for the gentrifiers. The only defence artists and creatives and coolness has, is that people with Money need to earn it somewhere. You can not earn money almost anywhere these days.

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