essays

Hip Displacement

medical walkerWe’re driving those hipsters crazy? Maybe not crazy, but we are driving them out of the neighborhood. From Red Hook in Brooklyn to Capitol Hill in Seattle, as soon as hipsters see the baby boomers coming, it’s time to pack up and find new digs.

All of the sudden the tattoo and facial hair quotient goes down, and the gray hair count goes up. Boomers are abandoning the suburbs in favor of more hip and artsy scenes and that can only mean one thing – hip displacement.

Real estate experts say that this sort of cycle has been going for years. What’s changed is how fast the turn-over has become. Once upon a time it took 10 years before the hipsters were priced out of an urban neighborhood. Now it’s happening as quickly as 5 years, and in great part, this speed-up is being driven by the burgeoning number of baby boomers who are snapping up condos in trendy hoods.

Redfin, the online brokerage firm, has stats that show more than a million baby boomers moved to within 5 miles of downtown in the 50 largest cities between 2000 and 2010. And this trend is now starting to accelerate as boomers take the retirement route and bug out of the burbs.

It’s either comical or ironic that boomers are moving to these hip enclaves for that sense of youthful vibrancy, which by their very numbers they drown out so quickly. One day everyone is under 30 and the next day the sidewalks are clogged with those pesky rolling walkers that people use after the second hip replacement.

In an ideal world, the hipsters and the graysters could share the neighborhood and maintain a diverse balance that benefits both. The hipsters would keep the hood jumping with some vitality and the graysters would leaven the mixture with some solid life experiences. Everybody wins. Unfortunately, real estate is rarely a win-win condo snatchersproposition. It’s more often made up of winners and losers (i.e. buyers and sellers).

So it’s inevitable that the cycle will continue – this game of Follow the Hipsters and ruin the neighborhood. If you think the boomers are disappointed when they wake up one day and realize they dominate the demographic of their neighborhood, imagine how the hipsters feel. For them, it’s like a scene out of Invasion of the Condo Snatchers.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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