What Every Hipster Needs To Know About Property
Gentrification is inevitable in any city, but conservation should always be at the heart of urban regeneration, argues Bill Barnett.
Whilst the mid-1960s saw the seeds of change and counterculture begin to blossom, 2015 shows no such signs.
Instead we now live in a world of bad news for bad people.
But looking back at a gentler time, I recall reading an online piece in Slate by John Buntin about the gentrification of urban slums and their transformations into hipster havens.
Naturally, my mind skipped entirely over the socio-political ramifications and I immediately took to dead reckoning how this phenomenon created an entirely new property class.
Forget SoHo, Tribeca or those lofty realms of New York City, my life resides in Asia. For better, worse or, as the Thais say, "same same".
In this fast track, amped up setting, real estate never sits still. With a bad case of ADD, fidgety developers continue to push the envelope, and in many cases redevelopment has been thrust aside in the search for all that is shiny, bright and brand new.
What happened to the more unassuming, classic, yet casual, gentrification approach, where redevelopment is a favoured pathway. One of the classic examples is the nuclear destruction of old, seedy Singapore, and its transformation into one of the metropolitan marvels of the modern age.
But there are no are the sagging lines, or the signs whatsoever of wear and tear – even the colonial buildings look like mockheritage edifices. Penang on a limited scale has seen the old shop houses in Georgetown restored, but skyward condominiums edge ever close to the heavens on the Malaysian island.
On my own adopted island of Phuket, the property market keeps evolving into new mini urbanised clusters, with new neighbourhoods cropping up on the fringes of old and tatty local areas. The only sign of the merging of tribes is most often witnessed at the 7-Eleven, where all men and women become equals. Equality by convenience.
Last year I wrote about the horrific spread across the region of faux real estate offerings. These run the gamut of tackiness from Tuscan estates to Venetian condos and Greco-Roman semi-detached townhouses. Mockness be damned; at breakfast I want my bacon piggy style.
Gentrification, whilst a highsounding concept, is at the end of day, about accessibility and a laid-back lifestyle. Perfection remains unattainable, as I have repeatedly learned in a life full of fabulous blunders and sidewinding. Who needs a yellow line to show you the way? As the Asia that we know slowly disappears before our very eyes and devolves into a shrink-wrapped product that lasts six months, what about redeveloping land, houses, hotels, communities in a more sustainable manner? As they say, you don't know what you have until it's gone.
PS: I forget to add 'hipster' to my 2015 buzzword bin.
Hopefully it shall not appear again in his column. After all, this is a term that peaked in the '90s, and should have been left there to decompose.