Localism and the G Word

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I just returned from a long weekend in Brooklyn. My visit inspired me to comment on the tensions between creativity and neighborhood change, and what those tensions mean for our investigation of localism.  Gentrification is a word that has been on many New Yorkers’ minds (and Instagram feeds) lately, and after considering my three visits to the borough over the past decade and a half, I can see why: each time it’s looked radically different from the previous visit.  My recent visit made me think of similar transformations in Portland, where 20 years ago the now luxurious and (arguably) hip Pearl District (then called the Northwest Industrial Triangle) was mostly comprised of abandoned and decaying industrial buildings with river views of the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

Williamsburg, a neighborhood in northwestern Brooklyn, is perhaps the epicenter of Brooklyn’s “creative crescent” transformation.  A few decades ago, an apartment in Williamsburg rented for about 30 cents per square foot.  Today, a studio in Williamsburg costs over $2800/month;  assuming 700sq ft, that’s $4 per square foot.  Rents in many Brooklyn neighborhoods – Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO, and even Bushwick – have now exceeded those of Manhattan, and people are reportedly moving back into Manhattan in search of lower rents.  This trend led one writer to ask: “So, are we done here? Is it all over?”

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When an Indie Record Label Relocates to Your City

Asthmatic Kitty Records
Independent record labels are usually products of thriving local music scenes. Sometimes, if the stars align, they reach a level of success and benefit their surrounding urban landscapes. Factory Records in Manchester, Saddle Creek Records in Omaha, and Righteous Babe Records in Buffalo are some examples of indie record labels that reinvested profits into local redevelopment projects. Asthmatic Kitty Records set-up shop in Indianapolis without having any prior ties to the city and quickly found ways to integrate its efforts within the local arts community. This integration helped foster new connections and drive the city’s creative economy. For the full story, click here to read my latest work for The Atlantic’s CityLab.