In the 1960’s there was the so-called “white flight” movement, which drove middle-class Americans to the suburbs and left cities for the poor. New York City, famously, was denied federal bailouts in 1975 and spiraled into chaos and crime.
But times change. We’ve all seen the gentrification of once-poor neighborhoods being revitalized in every major city across the United States. Downtown apartment buildings which were once reserved for the lowest of low class, have now been purchased by developers, redesigned and retrofitted, and flipped to a major profit for a hip new generation of wealthy city dwellers.
And according to an article in Forbes, the future is taking that idea and running with it: turning former industrial wastelands into thriving communities, business centers, and commercial hubs.
As an example, the developer Two Trees Management, took the abandoned and dilapidated Brooklyn Domino Sugar Factor and remodeled it into a large-scale development with 11 acre waterfront park, volleyball courts, restaurants, and 2300 apartments. The same developer is now working on a waterfront beach in Brooklyn—a sand beach, with views of Manhattan, in an area that once was reserved for low-class dockworkers.
And it’s not just in New York, but all over the world the move toward retrofitting industrial urban-decay zones has proved profitable. In London, Shoreditch, a neighborhood that was rundown and poor has gone not only to gentrification but to upper crust.
And in Milan, Italy, a manufacturing area that was filled with train tracks and industrial wasteland in the 90’s has been developed into a cutting-edge commercial and technology center that has the highest GDP of any district in Italy. It boasts the “vertical forest” a building claimed to be the world’s greenest building, featuring 800 trees.
Perhaps the leader among the industrial-to-upper class trend has been Berlin, which has revamped its Cold War buildings into thriving communities built on the harsh, urban decay of fifty years of architectural neglect. Even buildings positioned on top of what used to be the Berlin Wall are now going for outrageous sums.
Forbes pictures a possible future where this trend will be applied to the reconstruction of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, in which the building is made green, with a glass roof and carbon-neutral upgrades. It’s still in the proposal stage, but the fact that such a standard of iconic architecture is being considered for such a renovation is a statement in itself.
What this means for the lower classes, who are being priced out of the places that were once their refuge, is up in the air. But there’s no doubt that industrial areas are the next target of developers.