Search View Archive

Creative Redevelopment

My former home was in Notting Hill Gate, London, I also lived there before and after the film Notting Hill was made. I loved the area because it was slightly rough with a vibrant cultural mix, combined with a hub of creativity and an appreciation of artistry self-expression. There were pockets in the area with lower rents due to government housing and this enabled creatives to live and experiment with their artistry, whether fashion, art, music, and more.  Then came the film Notting Hill, then moved in the celebrities like Madonna, then bankers, and other “wannabe” cool soon followed. The area rapidly changed, becoming one of the most desirable places to live in London, where dogs were named “funky” and the West Indian bakery closed down to make way for a high-end fashion-buying office. 

As a recent transplant to New York, I hear the same is happening. Where former “no go” areas that were embraced by artists and creatives due to the lower living costs, can no longer stay in the area, and new ones don’t even bother to try and move in. Why? Because the area is now “cool” and redevelopers have created uber chic places with uber prices tags, that price out the originators and initiators out of an area they help create and nurture.

I suggest a new approach is taken when development of this kind happens in these types of areas. My suggestion is, when developers come into these areas, instead of the usual approach which is to create a development of luxurious dwellings and maybe set aside handful of units reserved as “affordable housing” or space, to keep numbers simple let’s say 10 percent. How about this is reversed, and the majority of the development is “affordable housing” and say 10 or 20 percent is put on the open market. Thus, the non-artist/creative who desires to live amongst the cool crowd now pays for the privilege, and the area remains an authentic hot bed of creativity, instead of a polished sterile former version with high price tags.

The 10–20 percent open market units could be sold in a number of ways, from silent auction bids to regular listings. Applying the law of supply and demand, these open market units would probably fetch a handsome amount because now they’re few in number and as history as shown, exclusivity creates a premium.

Applying this new approach would ensure the energy and creativity that helped create the area continue, and those buying into the area are there to help foster rather than contribute to it’s demise as a cool creative area. What’s really sad when this happens is grassroots creativity is either killed off or becomes enormously stifled due to the living costs of the creative, worst still, those born and raised in these areas when they were rough places to live, are now priced out of an area they know as home and help build into its current glory, all of which is priceless.


Bruce Reynolds


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2013

All Issues