>>>Giving neighbourhoods a new look

Giving neighbourhoods a new look

Can a marginalised suburb become the “prettiest” area of a city? New York, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Buenos Aires are all witness to such a transformation. This is the true essence of gentrification.
he average rental price in the district of Harlem (New York) rose by 90% between 2002 and 2014. However, until the 1980s, a third of all families that lived there depended on government welfare, proof that cities grow and change. There is a current trend towards urban transformations in the form of gentrification, which is a process that displaces the original population of a district in favour of another with higher purchasing power, making housing and businesses more expensive. Hence its meaning: the word gentrification is derived from the gentry.
The part of the beach where Sal Café is located did not exist until the 1990s. It used to be a shanty town.

This used to be all factories

Harlem is not the only trendy district in New York. There is also the Meatpacking District, known as Gansevoort Market. What used to be an area swamped with factories, especially for meat packing (hence its name) now uses its old structures to house markets and restaurants.

[Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, is the clearest example of gentrification], so much that ‘The New York Times’ has banned its journalists from using it as a reference. Nowadays Harlem has taken up the baton. Its streets boom with jazz, swing, cabarets and Afro-American culture. ‘The Guardian’ newspaper states that “Harlem is increasingly white”. This is a process that began when Bill Clinton installed his offices in the district: from an area in decline to a desirable, high-profile location with features such as abandoned buildings to luxury housing and modern cafés like Red Rooster, which offers live music and photography exhibitions.
Another example of this urban transformation is Puerto Madero (Buenos Aires), a response to the need to create a port to connect Buenos Aires with Europe. Who would have thought that the addition of four dams and two docks could turn it into a luxury district! Its streets are now lined with famous Parisian furniture shops (Roche Bobois) and five-star hotels such as Faena Hotel, decorated by Philippe Starck. This ‘foreign invasion’ has meant that it has lost part of its original essence, although Marcelo, one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, is one of the few that maintains its traditional feel.
Gansevoort Market is located between Chelsea and Greenwich.
Photo: coloursinmylife / Shutterstock.com
It’s easy to forget the real history of a place when you’re in a new, trendy café drinking a $25 organic shake. That’s why the Tai Hang District (Hong Kong) is making an effort to preserve its roots and keep its old mechanical workshops and open-air food stalls, which live side-by-side with a new wave of sophisticated restaurants, such as Go Ya Yakitori, and small cafés like La Famille and Noah Castella, where you can try green tea roll cake.
A piece by Nathan Coley at NDSM-Werf. ‘A Place Beyond Faith’. The sculpture was originally created for New York after 9/11.
Barcelona (Spain) is also not immune to gentrification. First to experience this urban pehnomena were the Raval and Born districts, now shortly followed by the neighbourhood of la Barceloneta. Fishermen, boat owners, craftsmen and workers from the shipyards in Barcelona used to live here. Its close proximity to the sea has meant a massive influx of tourists and new designer businesses. In the Vioko shop, chocolates and sweets are elegantly presented in display cabinets, as if they were diamonds in a jewellery shop. Sal Café is a ‘deluxe chiringuito’ on the seafront. It’s such a trendy spot that the former fishermen who lived in the area 50 years ago wouldn’t even recognise it now. The future of these districts is characterised by renovation or deterioration.

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