Monster trucks vs. Street Guys

30 10 2007

Real estate mavens keep telling us it’s not the same kind of people living in cities these days. OK. Let’s say they’re right. It started downtown and now it’s spreading to Chicago’s neighborhoods. Suburbanites are moving into the city. These are the family people who migrated to or were born in the rings and rings of creeping pavement that has covered all the farmland that used to feed the city. They began to do it in the recent past of a Federal Reserve Bank very friendly to the cozily low interest home loans we all loved so much.

During those very few years of giddy buying and selling and new property developments Chicago’s downtown and now its neighborhoods became a monster truck rally of construction equipment, pile drivers, dump trucks, and flocks of cranes of all heights and colors, red, yellow, white.

Modest, apologetic towns like the pre-pre-cast concrete Chicago were urbs where a house had always been a house and promised to stay that way and where an apartment building was a place neighbors might uneasily wonder if they were going to grow old together. There were vacant lots, startling numbers of vacant lots, even close to downtown, from the old 1960s urban removals. Many had stopped believing they would be anything but a wild toss of green in summer and a bleak snow-covered haven for fly-dump mattresses in winter.

In the past five or so years those urban houses and apartment buildings have become “tear downs” and that was something some thought could only happen in Los Angeles. So it was clear that things were going to crowd up. Fair enough. Cities SHOULD be crowded, that was the point, n’est-ce pas.

What happened next is the part that breaks plan “b’s” cyber heart.

More people came from the suburbs and the small towns out there, excited by the city they also feared. The new developments, dense and urban though they appear, serve the anguished aesthetic of buyers who wanted to bring their suburban comforts of Big Car and Big Clean downtown. They want the Big City to be a spanking clean city. They want the Big City to be full of folks a lot like themselves.

That means the increasing numbers of the down-and-outers, out of luck, out of doors, pan-handling for lunch and smokes, wondering where to sleep tonight crowd, that, coincidentally grew larger and larger through the real estate boom, should be kept out of sight if they couldn’t be kept out of town.

…to be continued




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