Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The gentrification frontier

The West End of Portland has a reputation for being a tony neighborhood, mostly because of the grand old mansions that front the Western Prom near the hospital. But further east, towards downtown, there's more rental housing, including a few public housing projects.

In between is a transitional zone where stately townhouses abut run-down tenements. I've pinpointed the frontier between the western district of ambitious homeowners and the eastern wilderness of absentee landlords to this house on Emery Street. On the left, the house is clad in asphalt shingles (which are half-heartedly embellished with fake wood grains); on the right, wooden clapboards and fancy trim. Even the street tree on the left is older, with a plastic bag stuck in its limbs.

Of course, the left half of the house is going to be a bargain to the next buyer - remove the ugly shingles and give it a coat of paint, and the new owner will have quickly gained thousands in increased property value. In the meantime, though, asphalt shingles will keep the neighborhood cheap, and the home-improving medical professionals closer to the hospital where they belong.

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