Let's Talk About Gentrification...

Cortes

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Why does everything have to be developed? Lagrange is already getting two crappy apartment buildings far below what should be built there both in terms of density and overall design quality. What would a third accomplish other than to completely sterilize one of the last bits of grit in the city?
This is a development forum. Grit comes from the absense of development. It's almost impossible to reconcile the two. Another word for this kind of "grit" in regards to the combat zone is decay. A different place, definitely. A better place, that too.
 

DBM

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Lagrange is already getting two crappy apartment buildings far below what should be built there both in terms of density and overall design quality.
In defense of one of them [41 LaGrange], it is being developed by a homeless shelter, with the explicit goal of creating affordable housing to help alleviate (in whatever small way it can) the brutal & remorseless affordable housing crisis. In light of that, I think it is appropriate to substantially relax aesthetic concerns regarding "overall design quality." So much of the surrounding area is adorned with so many architectural gems, who cares if one more additional building is bland and generic?

Ironically, of course, any calls to increase the density of that project would probably be cynically shouted-down by wealthy adjacent NIMBYs pearl-clutching re: "preservation of neighborhood character" (translation: we don't want more poor folks living nearby)
 

Scott

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Grit does not necessarily mean urban decay. Grit is the old city. Some people move here-or stay here, because of what is new and some because of our unique urban charm. However, if you want to live in a city your kid will eventually meet strippers or homeless people. It comes with the territory and maybe they will be better off for it and it will help nuture a degree of empathy
 

whighlander

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Grit does not necessarily mean urban decay. Grit is the old city. Some people move here-or stay here, because of what is new and some because of our unique urban charm. However, if you want to live in a city your kid will eventually meet strippers or homeless people. It comes with the territory and maybe they will be better off for it and it will help nuture a degree of empathy
Scott -- Grit in the context of urbanity means low-rent district and the the associated things such a place attracts -- all of which are part of the "decay process"

On the material side - -the low rent district is the place for 2nd and 3rd tier discount places, where you used to find places selling old industrial surplus, places selling similar clothing for students, transient workers, etc.

On the human side the grit came from the people who hung-out in the "low rent district" often providing goods and services which were at least technically considered illegal but for which there was a certain irreducible level of demand

Writers favored these places because of the "street characters" who were available for the observing and cops favored these places because this is where the overt illegal street business took place

However -- in the inevitable process of change -- unless the city as a whole is in decay -- the low rent district and its associated "grit" will ultimately became the next high rent district as it gets redeveloped.

But -- fear not -- somewhere relatively nearby a former medium rent district is inexorably becoming the next low rent district

and so it goes
 

meddlepal

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I'm not gonna say Boston would be better with The Combat Zone (long gone before my time), but it really does need a dense entertainment district. This area looks like it had some fun night life that the city is really lacking today. This could have evolved into Boston's nightlife district had it been cleaned up in a different way.

Could this have been Boston's Belltown (Seattle), or 6th Street (Austin)?
 

kingofsheeba

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I'm not gonna say Boston would be better with The Combat Zone (long gone before my time), but it really does need a dense entertainment district. This area looks like it had some fun night life that the city is really lacking today. This could have evolved into Boston's nightlife district had it been cleaned up in a different way.

Could this have been Boston's Belltown (Seattle), or 6th Street (Austin)?
In a COVID-19, is that sane planning? In theory I see what you’re saying, but from an optics standpoint, can you clean up “the Combat Zone” without some sort of gentrification approach?
 

HenryAlan

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I'm not gonna say Boston would be better with The Combat Zone (long gone before my time), but it really does need a dense entertainment district. This area looks like it had some fun night life that the city is really lacking today. This could have evolved into Boston's nightlife district had it been cleaned up in a different way.

Could this have been Boston's Belltown (Seattle), or 6th Street (Austin)?
I was not around for the heyday, but witnessed the death throws in the late 80s, early 90s. I had the same sort of vision for the area back then as you do. I pictured the strip clubs and peep shows remaining, but radiating away from the Beach/Washington/LaGrange intersection, there would be music clubs, dinner theater, etc., leading to the more mainline theaters a few blocks further away. It could still happen, but the real opportunity was about 25 years ago.
 

Czervik.Construction

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Boston had nightlife districts: Harvard Ave in Allston, Kenmore Square, Landsdown Street, The Alley, Fanuel Hall. One by one, these areas were picked apart over time.

The Combat Zone was gross. And dangerous. It being gone is a good thing. This sounds a lot like the people that lament the way downtown and far west side Manhattan have been gentrified and are no longer "interesting" or now lack "character". I am happy old NYC is long gone. Same with Boston. 2020 Boston is an amazing place. It is way better than 1980 Boston.
 

meddlepal

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Boston had nightlife districts: Harvard Ave in Allston, Kenmore Square, Landsdown Street, The Alley, Fanuel Hall. One by one, these areas were picked apart over time.

The Combat Zone was gross. And dangerous. It being gone is a good thing. This sounds a lot like the people that lament the way downtown and far west side Manhattan have been gentrified and are no longer "interesting" or now lack "character". I am happy old NYC is long gone. Same with Boston. 2020 Boston is an amazing place. It is way better than 1980 Boston.
Neither myself, Kingofsheeba, or HenryAlan suggested The Combat Zone would have been better or that the neighborhood lacks character. I raised the question of whether this could have become a very prominent nightlife district. The cleanup was inevitable. How it was cleaned up and the outcome is definitely an interesting thought exercise and topic for debate.

So basically you ignored the premise of the prior posts and then went on a weird little rant. Thanks for contributing... nothing.
 

HenryAlan

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Boston had nightlife districts: Harvard Ave in Allston, Kenmore Square, Landsdown Street, The Alley, Fanuel Hall. One by one, these areas were picked apart over time.

The Combat Zone was gross. And dangerous. It being gone is a good thing. This sounds a lot like the people that lament the way downtown and far west side Manhattan have been gentrified and are no longer "interesting" or now lack "character". I am happy old NYC is long gone. Same with Boston. 2020 Boston is an amazing place. It is way better than 1980 Boston.
I don't disagree with much of this, but I do think something different could have happened with the Combat Zone that might have kept it edgy and fresh, just less disgusting and dangerous. Also, 1980s Kenmore was significantly better than 2020 Kenmore. That's really not even debatable.
 

bakgwailo

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I'm not gonna say Boston would be better with The Combat Zone (long gone before my time), but it really does need a dense entertainment district. This area looks like it had some fun night life that the city is really lacking today. This could have evolved into Boston's nightlife district had it been cleaned up in a different way.

Could this have been Boston's Belltown (Seattle), or 6th Street (Austin)?
Or Disneyfied like Times Square.
 

Czervik.Construction

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Looks like I triggered you a bit. What I may not have connected the dots on is that Boston had lots of nightlife clusters, but over the years, they have all withered, been re-developed, re-zoned, whatever... What was once a city with lots of little pockets of nightlife, with something for everyone's taste, you now have almost nothing left in any of those clusters or even the clusters themselves now being gone (the Alley, etc.).

I am sure that stretch of Washington Street could have turned into a more vibrant nightlife scene, but like a lot of the city, it was easier to let a big developer come in and flatten the place and start over. Walking through that area with the Ritz Towers and a Roche Bobois furniture on the corner of Avery and Washington is hilarious to me knowing what was once there. What is sad is how Kenmore was a great spot for rock music and rock culture and now it is completely gone.

Neither myself, Kingofsheeba, or HenryAlan suggested The Combat Zone would have been better or that the neighborhood lacks character. I raised the question of whether this could have become a very prominent nightlife district. The cleanup was inevitable. How it was cleaned up and the outcome is definitely an interesting thought exercise and topic for debate.

So basically you ignored the premise of the prior posts and then went on a weird little rant. Thanks for contributing... nothing.
 

whighlander

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Looks like I triggered you a bit. What I may not have connected the dots on is that Boston had lots of nightlife clusters, but over the years, they have all withered, been re-developed, re-zoned, whatever... What was once a city with lots of little pockets of nightlife, with something for everyone's taste, you now have almost nothing left in any of those clusters or even the clusters themselves now being gone (the Alley, etc.).

I am sure that stretch of Washington Street could have turned into a more vibrant nightlife scene, but like a lot of the city, it was easier to let a big developer come in and flatten the place and start over. Walking through that area with the Ritz Towers and a Roche Bobois furniture on the corner of Avery and Washington is hilarious to me knowing what was once there. What is sad is how Kenmore was a great spot for rock music and rock culture and now it is completely gone.
Czervik -- Ignoring the possibilities of major changes due to the after effects of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic
Boston is developing or has already in place robust centers for nightlife in 5 places -- perhaps just not your definition of night-life
  1. 1) traditional Theatre district and extensions
  2. 2) Fenway area
  3. 3) Seaport area
  4. 4) Northstation area
  5. 5) Alston / Brighton area including Sneaker-ville
each of the above will have a number of venues of varying sizes for varying tastes as well as restaurants
 

chrisbrat

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Kenmore still has Nuggets (amazingly, inexplicably), but yeah -- that's one area where I'll join others with the cries of, "It used to be so much better!" Not many areas of the city where I TRULY long for "Dirty Old Boston," but Kenmore's one of them. Allston (Harvard Ave. area) is still pretty rockin, between Great Scott, OBriens, Brighton Music Hall, the Sill, and (I guess) The Model (and the Sound Museum a little further afield). Development keeps threatening O'Brien's and Stingray, though -- If OB's goes and there's no reasonable replacement, then that'll be a tipping point.
 

DBM

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Walking through that area with the Ritz Towers and a Roche Bobois furniture on the corner of Avery and Washington is hilarious to me knowing what was once there.
Is it "hilarious"? Either "surreal" or "disorienting" would seem to be more likely reactions, but that's just me. Also, given that the Combat Zone was done by 1995 and, realistically, no one under 15 was there, you've inadvertently self-identified as being 40+. Which is fine, of course (I also find myself in that cohort).

But, it's worth remembering, for every single person under 40, the Combat Zone is merely relevant in terms of "oh, I think I saw a photo of it once on Dirty Old Boston's Instagram page?" If that. Look around those streets these days and speculate on how many of the pedestrians are under 40... I think it's a very sizable proportion, given the college campuses, etc.

All of which is to say: what IS probably hilarious is the disconnect between the amount of time Bostonians 40+ spend meditating and arguing about the meaning and legacy of the Combat Zone... and how Bostonians under 40 don't.
 

Czervik.Construction

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@whighlander You are probably right, I have been gone a long time... before Vornado/DTX failed, before Columbus Center was canceled, so I am probably not the right person to comment on the current state of Boston nightlife. Heck, I haven't been in the city for a couple of years.

Czervik -- Ignoring the possibilities of major changes due to the after effects of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic
Boston is developing or has already in place robust centers for nightlife in 5 places -- perhaps just not your definition of night-life
  1. 1) traditional Theatre district and extensions
  2. 2) Fenway area
  3. 3) Seaport area
  4. 4) Northstation area
  5. 5) Alston / Brighton area including Sneaker-ville
each of the above will have a number of venues of varying sizes for varying tastes as well as restaurants
 

bakgwailo

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Is it "hilarious"? Either "surreal" or "disorienting" would seem to be more likely reactions, but that's just me. Also, given that the Combat Zone was done by 1995 and, realistically, no one under 15 was there, you've inadvertently self-identified as being 40+. Which is fine, of course (I also find myself in that cohort).

But, it's worth remembering, for every single person under 40, the Combat Zone is merely relevant in terms of "oh, I think I saw a photo of it once on Dirty Old Boston's Instagram page?" If that. Look around those streets these days and speculate on how many of the pedestrians are under 40... I think it's a very sizable proportion, given the college campuses, etc.

All of which is to say: what IS probably hilarious is the disconnect between the amount of time Bostonians 40+ spend meditating and arguing about the meaning and legacy of the Combat Zone... and how Bostonians under 40 don't.
So, I am not sure I would agree that the combat zone was done by '95. Certainly most of the stores/theaters/etc were gone, but, there was still tons of street level prostitution, drug dealing, and violence well into the early 00s. The opening of the new Ritz in 2001 really marked the start of the end of all of it, with its real down fall begining in 2004, when the city reused and redeployed all of the surveillance cameras from the DNC that year to Chinatown and really started cracking down on things. Plus the rise of the internet pushed a lot of things off of the streets and onto the web, along with smart phone cameras becoming ubiquitous - you don't quite see the rumbles you might used to have.
 

Arenacale

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Is it "hilarious"? Either "surreal" or "disorienting" would seem to be more likely reactions, but that's just me. Also, given that the Combat Zone was done by 1995 and, realistically, no one under 15 was there, you've inadvertently self-identified as being 40+.
Anecdotally, I'm 34, and as young kid my mother used to take my sister and I to Jordan Marsh and Downtown Crossing on the 11 bus fairly regularly. I remember seeing those places pass by on Washington St. as an elementary schooler (and younger) and not knowing what they were exactly, except that they were for adults and they looked creepy. I'm sure many kids around my age back then knew that it existed but didn't quite understand it.

I think the definition of "Dirty Old Boston" is very much tied to one's age. Just like music, movies and the rest of pop culture, you're going to have nostalgia for your formative teenage years and what your environment was like at that point, even if it wasn't objectively a better situation. Someone older than me is going to reminisce about the Combat Zone or perhaps the old Causeway Street/Boston Garden experience, I find myself often thinking about stupid stuff like the Big Dig and getting the warm feelings from the Longwood Galleria's excessively '90s signage, someone younger than me may end up with positive feelings for South Station before the tower goes up or the early days of the Seaport before the development explosion of the last few years. I think developments not having enough character is a legitimate concern, but it needs to be separated from the idea of "it used to be better" for the conversation to be productive.
 

DBM

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So, I am not sure I would agree that the combat zone was done by '95. Certainly most of the stores/theaters/etc were gone, but, there was still tons of street level prostitution, drug dealing, and violence well into the early 00s. The opening of the new Ritz in 2001 really marked the start of the end of all of it, with its real down fall begining in 2004, when the city reused and redeployed all of the surveillance cameras from the DNC that year to Chinatown and really started cracking down on things. Plus the rise of the internet pushed a lot of things off of the streets and onto the web, along with smart phone cameras becoming ubiquitous - you don't quite see the rumbles you might used to have.
Thanks for that clarification/chronology--I definitely didn't know about the post-DNC redeployment. Good to know!
 

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