£5 Cappuccinos

That's a price you unfortunately can come across in the gentrified areas. I have to spit out my thoughts and worries about my favourite city's future, so here we go (again): London and its gentrification of less popular areas.

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One of my first posts was on the gentrification of Shoreditch (Shoredification). I wrote that I tend to agree with the people of Shoreditch; it's just way better now than only a few years ago. There's a lot of social progress: crimes rates are decreasing, schools are better, etc. Nobody prefers crack houses above coffee bars, right?! But it strikes me that this gentrification, or upscaling if you want, is getting out of control. It's not only Shoreditch, but also Hackney, Bethnal Green, Dalston, etc. and apparently the new yuppie families are driving the 'original inhabitants' out and making it a posh area. Even the creative youngsters who once came to East London because of its cheapness but attractive and cool image are now fleeing to further areas such as Walthamstow, because they simply can't afford it anymore.

photo: McCarthy-Rimella on eastlondonlines.co.uk

Honestly, I don't know what to think about this. London is changing so much in such a short time. The international newspaper headlines the past few weeks were all about the homeless spikes and the poor door. That's not how we want to see London evolving, do we? 20 years ago every neighbourhood had its residents, even in West London. Like a journalist from The Economist is saying: "Hampstead: intellectuals; Islington: media trendies; Camden: bohemians, goths and punks; Fulham: thick poshos who couldn’t afford Chelsea; Notting Hill: cool kids; Chelsea: rich people. Now, every single one of these is just rich people."

photo: The Independant

It has only been three years since the London Riots, but it could happen again if people feel diminished. That's also what Pauline Pearce, a Hackney resident, says in an article in the Telegraph this week:

"London belongs to all of us. Not just those who can afford to pay £5 for a cappuccino."

photo: The Guardian

I totally agree with her, but I guess it's about finding the right balance between the amount of upgrading the neighbourhood. You can make it more safe and enjoyable to live, but some areas are becoming artificial now. Housing prices are becoming ridiculously high and so are the products in those areas. Sometimes 'poor people' are allowed because when new buildings are being built, there have to be a few floors for the subsidised social housing. That's when you get the 'poor door'. Although some social housing residents actually don't mind, because they are still in a way better situation than before. The gap between rich and poor is still growing in London. But what can be done?

Share your thoughts here or on Twitter.

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Another interesting article on this topic here.

The Old Street transformation

Wow. Just wow. The Old Street roundabout really is the place to be this summer! Until October you can watch the rest of the Word Cup at the pop-up bar, but also Wimbledon and the Tour de France or just grab a drink.

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Old Street roundabout was once (OK, not so long ago) the ugliest roundabout (also called 'Silicon roundabout' because of all the tech companies in the area) on earth. In the middle you had an ugly building, which wasn't used anymore, and on top of that a huge advertising construction. I remember my first visit to Old Street very well: it was in April 2012 when I walked out of the Old Street Underground station with my mom to discover the neighbourhood a bit. It was very likely I would do an internship in that area, so we wanted to see how it was. We also went to White Cube on Hoxton Square (isn't there anymore) that day.

So we walked out of the tube station on a Saturday morning around 10 AM and there was almost nobody there. We were almost on our own at the ugliest roundabout ever, with underneath it probably the ugliest underground station in London, looking around. At the underground exit there was someone sleeping on the ground and most shops weren't open yet. My mom said: 'Are you sure this is where we have to be..?' But I saw a piece by ROA, a nice coffee bar and a few galleries and I knew: this is it. So I answered my mom: 'Yes, definitely and I can't wait to do my internship here!' (She looked at me like I was crazy.) Less than a year later I walked by that street and that ugly roundabout every day. It became one of my favourite places. On a morning during weekdays people are rushing to their work, grabbing a free newspaper and walking by EAT to quickly pick up a coffee or a sandwich. On a Saturday or Sunday morning everything is still quiet and it like looks the neighbourhood is preparing itself for an awesome weekend. OK, I could be a bit biased because I kind of had a first date at Old Street roundabout. (I was waiting there in the snow on a Sunday morning to grab a coffee and pancakes together, hehe.)

But the whole point is: since that day in April 2012 until now, Old Street roundabout has changed a lot. Even at the underground station the shops are evolving nicely. A month ago there was a Tate pop-up shop, a pop-up by Good & Proper tea and more pop-ups are coming (that's enough 'pop-up' in one sentence for now). So I'm really happy they finally did something nice with it. I always wondered what it would be like to be on one of the busiest roundabouts in London (think: three lanes of traffic)..

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Gentrification / Shoreditchification

A few days ago Alex Proud of The Telegraph wrote an article called "Why this Shoreditchification of London must stop". He comments heavily on the 20- and 30-somethings who gentrified the area by opening shops, (pop-up)restaurants, etc. Because it becomes a 'cool area' the rising property prices push original residents out, he says. He calls Shoreditch a brand, part of maintream consumer culture. Of course many people working or living in Shoreditch responded. The website Made in Shoreditch for example gathered some of the reactions in "What do we think about Alex Proud's Shoreditchification post".

I tend to agree with the people from Shoreditch. Twenty years ago it was a filthy and dangerous area, now it's one of London's most creative neighbourhoods because of the courageous people who went there and started a business. Why did they go there? Because it was affordable to live in Shoreditch. In that way London became so diverse and popular the way it is today. Yes, you see this gentrification also in East-Berlin and New York, but isn't that a good thing? As Aleks Eror says in his defence: "crack houses get turned into gluten-free vegan microbreweries and knife crime is replaced with sneering at people who shop in Urban Outfitters". I dare you to find anyone who prefers crack houses.

In 2002 (only 12 years ago) this article appeared in The Telegraph: "It's official: Hackney is more dangerous than Soweto". In the article it said: 'Homerton Hospital in Hackney treats 55 knife or gunshot wounds each month'. I can tell you, because of the gentrification the last ten years I felt really safe living in Hackney only 2 minutes away from Homerton Hospital.

What do you think about this gentrification? Not only in London, but also in other big cities like New York or Berlin?