Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 95 of 135

" T h e r e a s o t h i n g e r e e f o r e h e a f O p e n e d ! " ON NOVEMBER 22, 2017, INK! Coffee set up a sandwich board on the sidewalk outside the café that read "Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014" on one side, and "Nothing says gentri- fi cation better than a fresh brewed cortado" on the other. Folks walking past the shop, which sits on the main drag of the Five Points neighborhood in Denver, were swift to take their distaste for the sign to social media. Almost instantly, some 200 locals were assembled outside ink! Coffee in protest. They breathed a collective sigh of relief when ink! founder Keith Herbert removed the sign and issued an apology on Facebook. Weeks earlier, members of the activist group Defend Boyle Heights stood outside Weird Wave Coffee in downtown Los Angeles, de- manding that the café close and move elsewhere. Anti-gentrifi cation protesters who felt that the café's presence exploited the heavily Lati- no Eastside neighborhood gave the shop the moniker "White Wave Coffee." The discord surrounding the shop followed similar protests of new art galleries in Boyle Heights. Defend Boyle Heights, along with Union de Vecinos and the Boyle Heights Alliance Artwashing and Displacement, have been fi ghting the battle against new neighbor- hood businesses that they feel will increase rents and push out locally owned businesses and working families. What ink! Coffee and Weird Wave Coffee have in common is that they opened in localities that have historically been occupied by mi- norities. Gentrifi cation—which is defi ned as the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste—is often associated with coffee shops. Why is this association so strong, and how can prospective café owners open spaces that honor residents and respond to community needs? e W N H B T C é Just the word "gentrification" sends some folks running—even a discussion can feel like an implicit accusation. "Gentrification is often an ugly word," says Jeffrey Hreben, development manager for Tandem Construction in Chicago. "It's racially based, economi- cally based, and class based—it's not just new things coming in, but it's new things coming in that can be unfamiliar or unwelcoming to current residents." Gentrifi cation is a problem because of the proliferation of city life and the concentration of wealth in urban areas. "Back in the 1960s and '70s, metro economies were actually converging. Housing values and incomes in Midwest cities weren't much lower than they were on the coasts, and the difference was shrinking over time," says Kasey Klimes, a city planner and design researcher based in the San Francis- co Bay Area who has worked in specialty-coffee shops in the United States and Denmark. "By the end of the 1970s, St Louis [Mo.]'s per capita income was 90 percent that of New York City. We had achieved an impressive degree of geographic equity at the national scale." That progress reversed in the 1980s, Kasey goes on to say, when President Ronald Reagan began dismantling antitrust law. "Nearly overnight, slightly larger coastal companies began acquiring slight- ly smaller companies in the middle of the country," he says. "They scraped the Midwest and the South clean of jobs, and moved them all to their coastal headquarters," Kasey says. "Incomes and land values climbed on the coasts while they fell in the rest of the country." Cities responded to this demand differently: Houston, for exam- ple, did away with certain regulations and kept building housing in order to keep it affordable (at the cost of urban sprawl). In Seattle, the city waited for the demand for more housing to get so hot that it overwhelmed any effort to build more. In San Francisco, landowners rallied against new housing developments, which helped to infl ate pric- es and make the land they were holding on to even more valuable. To Kasey, coffee shops play a minor role in gentrifi cation. "My opinion should be clear that the coffee shops are tiny actors compared to the massive economic forces at play." If coffee shops play bit parts, what role do developers play? "Gen- trifi cation often implies an active participant, but most developers are following where the money is," Jeffrey says. The majority of the con- struction Jeffrey's fi rm does is in already-developed neighborhoods, and he is keenly aware that developers have a lot to do with what the retail spaces in a particular neighborhood look like. "For example, if most of the residents in a building we construct are projected to be under 30, we might not want to put in a day care," he says. The kinds of retail spaces chosen for, say, a new high-rise condo building, tend to speak to the building's projected community. Cafés are often associated with gentrifi cation because it can seem like a café wasn't built for the neighborhood's longtime residents, 96 barista magazine

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