Have you ever wondered how hip neighbourhoods become hip? What is the life cycle that makes the SoHo’s and Jordaans? Well, I think that the cycle goes largely like this:
A city is growing, and as it grows, it attracts masses of newcomers, often poor and uneducated. To house the ragged masses, the city decides to build a new neighbourhood for them, located conveniently far from where the city council members live. The architect assigned with the task sees his chance and designs a model neighbourhood with all the modern facilities available. Real life kicks in and the drawing board plans get chopped down due to lack of budget and a densely populated working-class neighbourhood appears, with all the necessary modern facilities such as a cloister and a prison. A musical pavilion is the only remainder of the architect’s Grand Vision.
Life in the neighbourhood is tough and short, though after a while the poor uneducated masses get some education and do their best to leave. Their place is taken by immigrants who bring new blood, new customs and new troubles. The church loses its grip on the population and a part of the cloister is converted into a community centre. The rest is run-down. Finally, to make the neighbourhood’s misery complete, power-drunk hippies in the city council “renovate” the urban landscape by constructing modern versions of the working-class barracks. The neighbourhood is at its lowest point.
Then something happens. At least, in some neighbourhoods it does. The rents (thanks to the crime rate and state of property) are low, the city has sprawled further and what was once on the edge is considered quite central, so students and aspiring artists move in. Most of the time students graduate and move away, but some decide to stay, having discovered that the area’s run-down houses can be bought cheaply and renovated into proper apartments. The artists community squatting in the cloister suddenly becomes fashionable and successful. The second (and/or third) generation of immigrants gets better education and re-brands dad’s halal butchery as an “oriental deli”. The birth rate dropped a couple of decades ago and now crime rates go down as the supply of angry young men dries out. Students and immigrants start to interbreed until you don’t know anymore who is who. Before you know it, what used to be an urban gutter features more yoga studios then Rishikesh.
The area is in the lift and the first hipsters on fixies are seen in the streets. Now’s the time to move in. Prices are still low, there are even empty plots available and plenty of unique property is up for sale – the old prison for example, or the last part of the cloister. Or, if you don’t have the means or the will to invest, just come by for a stroll to see what a hip neighbourhood looks like right before everyone knows its hip. Before the hipsters take over.
All photo’s are taken in the Oude Noorden neighbourhood of Rotterdam.
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