Like many cities across the nation, New Orleans is dealing with the issue of gentrification, but the brand of gentrification going on in New Orleans is of the hipster variety. 2014’s KaleGate debacle and the many responses to that uninformed New York Times article showed just how strongly many New Orleanians felt about the city’s hipster migration . Williamsburg, Austin, Silver Lake, and now New Orleans have been invaded by hipsters so the story is nothing new, but what is unique to the gentrification, or hipster-fication, of New Orleans is the state the city was in just a few short years ago and the city’s truly special indigenous culture. Consider these factors before weighing in on the post-Katrina hipster occupation of New Orleans, Louisiana.
New Orleans Was Once Left For Dead
Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans , Louisiana, and the surrounding areas, leaving much of the city underwater . Many even questioned if the city would ever come back and some politicians questioned why anyone would want to even try to rebuild the storied city . The population initially shrank considerably and the city adopted a smaller footprint. Those initial months and years after the storm were scary as New Orleans sat on the precipice of extinction. The city welcomed anyone who appreciated its beauty. Have we forgotten those dark days?
Creating a Tax Base
New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in America and has long struggled with the adverse effects of “white flight” to the suburbs. The influx of hipsters into New Orleans neighborhoods like the Bywater and the Marigny is bringing in a new tax base and helping to revive housing left blighted in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. A city whose oldest neighborhoods were once decaying is now experiencing a rebirth. Ask yourself, “how is this bad?”
New Orleans, a Melting Pot of Cultures
Many New Orleans locals deride the hipsters that are setting up shop along the St. Claude Avenue corridor and cite the change in the city’s culture as they make snide remarks about the new yoga studios and fancy coffee shops. These hipster-friendly businesses do not threaten the city’s unique culture and identity. They are virtually always independently-owned and operated and merely add to the culture of New Orleans. These are not big-box stores setting up shop in the city’s historic neighborhoods and extracting wealth from them in the name of corporate greed. These are small business owners establishing roots in the city in order to cater to its latest arrivals. New Orleans has long been seen as a place of refuge for creative and eccentric types. Anne Rice, Trent Reznor, and Tennessee Williams all found their spiritual homes in New Orleans due to its open-minded nature. Acceptance is part of New Orleans, or it was.
I Was Here Before It Was Cool
There is great irony in the “I lived in the Bywater before the hipsters came to town” argument being thrown around. Hipsters are often criticized for saying things like, “I liked it before it was mainstream,” yet many New Orleans natives are using the very same line of reasoning to keep hipsters out of our tasty melting pot….err gumbo pot.
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The Best Wine Bars in New Orleans, Louisiana
Summer Reading List: Three Must-Read Pieces of New Orleans Literature