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View Poll Results: Which city will be gentrified into oblivion first?
Manhattan (New York) 15 34.09%
Washington, DC 20 45.45%
Boston 9 20.45%
Voters: 44. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 04-11-2014, 12:25 PM
Location: Prince George's County, Maryland
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Originally Posted by lrfox View Post
Disclaimer, I don't consider any of these three cities to be bland. I'd put all three near the top of the list for most vibrant American cities.

That being said, I think DC overall is the most sterile feeling of the three. Before I get jumped on by the DC crowd for saying this, let me just reiterate... I think all three are among the most diverse, vibrant and active cities in the U.S. But out of the three, I'd say DC feels the most sterile.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but I don't think gentrification is really the guilty party. All three cities have experienced quite a bit of gentrification, but I would argue that DC may have neighborhoods that have gentrified the least (though Boston really doesn't trail far behind) of the pack.

For me, it's a combination of DC's height cap, government presence and transient workforce. The height cap is most pronounced in downtown DC. Bear with me, this isn't a skyline rant. Instead of building tall and slender in the city center, developers are forced to build short and fat to get the same square footage for the money. Combined with the hulking government structures, Downtown DC has too many areas that are dominated with massive landscapers with little or no street interaction. There are definitely active pockets (7th street is always busy and active... but note pedestrian scale is much better than much of the rest of the area), and DC is still light years ahead of most other American cities, but Boston and Manhattan don't have nearly the same proportion of sterile, non-interactive streetscape in the city centers.

Beyond the scale of the buildings, the government presence and heightened security temper some of the natural intermingling that happens on normal city streets. This obviously only applies to access points at major government structures, but it hurts the overall activity of the area, especially when DC's major government structures are mostly adjacent to DC's greatest asset- the National Mall. The sidewalks along the mall should be chalk-full of people selling knock-off purses from blankets, fake Rolexes out of suitcases, crappy jewelry and fake cologne out of garbage bags, an incredible variety of street food vendors, etc. All of those things do exist along the Mall, but in a much, much smaller capacity than they should. While those activities are mostly illegal, they add to the character of the area and make the experience mostly more enjoyable. My favorite memories of walking thorough Battery Park are not the pristine grounds or spotless benches, but the guys trying to get me to by a $10 Rolex or $10 Oakleys. Same for the Boston Common.

The transient nature of the workforce also adds to it. It seems like everyone in DC is from somewhere else, and many of these people move in and then out within a few years time. It makes a lot of DC feel less Established than the other two (though it's still more "established" feeling than most other cities).

DC still has some of the best urban neighborhoods in the U.S., and it's seemingly evolving (for the better) faster than any city on the East Coast. I'd gladly live in DC again if I had the opportunity. I was in DC for Shamrock Fest a few weeks ago, meeting with some old friends. I was amazed when we walked by my old place how many more (and better looking) restaurants and stores there were in the neighborhood. But compared to the other two, it does still feel a little more sterile.
Very interesting points. Btw, I believe that back in the 80s and most of the 90s, Chinatown and K Street used to be hotspots for those vendors you were talking about. Old heads even said that there even used to be some sleazy establishments (porn shops and mag newsstands and the like) right near the FBI Building of all places too LOL.
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Old 04-11-2014, 12:32 PM
Location: Brooklyn, NY $$$
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Originally Posted by lrfox View Post
I don't think it's that people are opposed to more urban amenities. I think it's the type of amenities and being priced out that people have a problem with. It sucks living in a neighborhood where rent goes up a few hundred dollars every year, your favorite small, cheap ethnic eatery is replaced with an overpriced, douchey sounding wine bar, and your corner market turns into an overpriced organic grocery store.

Gentrification is like anything else. It reaches a point where too much is a bad thing. It's great when vacant homes are drawing renewed interest which draws businesses into vacant storefronts which in turn draws more interest in living in the neighborhood, which draws even more businesses. It gets bad when you have an active and vibrant neighborhood that's lower-middle class, and the residents and businesses start getting priced out. You start seeing small mom and pop shops being priced out of their storefronts which are then replaced with a Walgreens, bank, Panera Bread, etc. That's where the "gentrification is bad!" folks start chiming in.
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