Can you build a neighborhood out of money? It’s a defining question in America’s fastest-growing cities. When a major residential project rises, who suffers? When a tax incentive is granted, who benefits? When occupied land is redeveloped, how do city dwellers reconcile the pressure for economic growth with the need to safeguard vulnerable communities?
As a regular reader of Eater or Curbed, you may be wondering who gets to decide the target audience for these real estate megaplexes: Which retail and restaurant tenants get in? How much do they pay? What kind of economic incentives do they benefit from? And what’s the special sauce that actually makes a viable, dynamic, livable neighborhood?
Our respective sites explore the granular ins and outs of these topics on an almost-daily basis. But as real estate developers increasingly rely on culinary talents to gird economic interest—and as big capital continues to corporatize regional restaurant scenes across America—we see this as an opportune moment to partner up and analyze how all this development is reshaping our cities.
Through this collaboration, we examine ongoing developments unique to six American cities: Detroit, Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. We wonder if a tax break for a giant tech company can actually spur economic growth in a new district—without destroying its transient community. We ask if local government should require not just affordable housing in big urban developments, but also a mix of independent and lower-income retail and culinary operators. We confront the lasting effects, both good and bad, of a massive sports complex on one of a city’s most diverse neighborhoods.
Each of these urban case studies is distinctive to its place; San Francisco’s limited land mass has nothing to do with Atlanta’s zoning codes, or Austin’s need for public transit. But what all six cities have in common is a distinctly American problem: how we, the people, reconcile our desire for economic growth with neighborhoods that are equitable for all their constituents.
If you build it, will they come? If they come, who will have to leave?
— Kelsey Keith and Amanda Kludt, editors-in-chief of Curbed and Eater
San Francisco passed the Central Market Tax Exclusion in 2011 to encourage tech giants to move into a chronically neglected, impoverished section of the Mid-Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods. Twitter quickly set up shop, as did Dolby and Uber, but residents and foot traffic didn’t follow as expected, new restaurants faltered, and homelessness persists. Now the city is asking: What will it take for Mid-Market to become the vibrant, food-filled neighborhood the city hoped for?
A brand-new stadium—along with a performing arts venue, a conference center, and over 700,000 square feet of commercial and residential space—is slated to open in Inglewood in 2020. But as “the last affordable, extremely well-located community” in Los Angeles, how strongly will Inglewood’s current residents and local business owners feel the impact of the rush of investment?
Atlanta’s erstwhile City Hall East has been reborn as Ponce City Market, a mixed-use complex featuring a food hall, cocktail bars, and office space—a shiny new hub in the longstanding Old Fourth Ward district that is now host to businesses like MailChimp and Google. But the commercial behemoth sits in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of Section 8 housing in the Southeast, and the residents have felt the pinch.
As the largest private real estate development in the United States, Hudson Yards already is starting to resemble a playground for the rich. Structures designed by the likes of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Zaha Hadid, and Thomas Heatherwick set the stage for New York City’s newest area, as do a slate of high-end restaurants chosen by two multibillion-dollar developers. Can the new mega-complex transcend its hype to become an actual neighborhood?
A seemingly constant parade of boosters has invited developers and entrepreneurs to remake Detroit’s New Center district. And while restaurant owners acknowledge the area’s advantages—a newly completed rail system, proximity to one of the city’s fastest-growing residential neighborhoods—there have been some notable closures that make opening a restaurant in the area seem like a risky move. So, what’s next for New Center?
In 1992, a group of local business owners in East Austin set out to promote the area, filled with longstanding Mexican restaurants and other attractions, by developing a lively outdoor promenade known as Plaza Saltillo. What has transpired between then and now is a tangle of city policy, transit initiatives, and private real estate deals that’s led to a still-developing mega-development barely resembling the original.
Editors: Amanda Kludt, Kelsey Keith, Matt Buchanan, Mariam Aldhahi, Ellie Krupnick, Sally Kuchar, Carolyn Alburger, Ellen Fort, Brenna Houck, Jenna Chandler, Amy Plitt, Serena Dai, Missy Frederick
Art Direction: Brittany Holloway-Brown, Alyssa Nassner, Audrey Levine
Illustrations: Studio MUTI
Photography: Liz Kuball, Patricia Chang, Max Touhey, Rinne Allen, Andrea Calo, Jenna Belevender
Contributors: Dorothy Hernandez, Ryan Sutton, Mona Holmes, Cindy Widner, Elijah Chiland, Emily Nonko, Josh Green, Brock Keeling
Copy Editors: Emma Alpern, Rachel Kreiter
Fact Checkers: Dawn Mobley, Emma Grillo
Thanks to Sonia Chopra, Milly McGuinness, Robert Khederian