One of my favorite clients recently sent me a link to a listing that had gotten lots of people downtown in quite an uproar about the subject of Gentrification in the east area of Downtown Knoxville. It was a 1920s home that hadn’t been renovated, encouraging a buyer to be part of the “Downtown Gentrification” – brought up to current code and given the type of curb appeal that will attract a higher price-point than the regular home in the neighborhood.
The targeted buyer is likely an investor who sees the growing home value trends in the area and looks for a foreclosed house or motivated seller’s plight as an opportunity to make a great profit, “improve” a neighborhood and stretch development of “new” old homes beyond the scope of the Historic Overlay boundaries set by the city.
As an effect of efforts by growth-minded politicians in the recent past, downtown has semi-organically pushed the limits of this Historic Overlay areas like 4th & Gill, Parkridge, Park City and others – making them more and more attractive to young, affluent buyers who like the ideas of living close to all the great developments that are happening downtown. With 20+ micro craft breweries and wonderful restaurants and bars opening in the past few years, many major Brew festivals around town, a lively culture has grown into Knoxville becoming known as a Maker City. It’s a place where people of all walks of life will want to come down and soak in a variety of creative, interesting and eclectic efforts by local artisans, photographers, painters, farmers and other folks all making uniquely Knoxville items and products.
If you Google Gentrification in Knoxville articles quickly pop up dating back to 1983 on the first page.
This has created an unique constituency in the areas of revitalization and growth – namely the people who have lived there for years. As Knoxville’s revitalization and renovation continues a segment of the population have felt the squeeze that comes with this Gentrification of historically lower-income areas. And the word has taken on quite the stigma. The last places in Knoxville where one can find a home with rents less than poverty level or high in subsidized housing options has become one of the most popular targets for investment, growth and “revitalization” – and the historic residents are feeling the squeeze.
All of a sudden a home that is less than $500 per month and surrounded by many generations of friends and family is right next door to one with $1,500 per month rent or $250,000 mortgage, a newly sewn Zoysia yard, fresh paint and a monitored security system. Inside, a business owner who daily commutes via bicycle to her mid-century modern furnished loft business in the Old City creating and manufacturing something that everyone wants. The new neighbor is a great one to have, unless you can’t afford the rent-raise or eviction that looms on the horizon.
The new character living in the neighborhood has made the current neighbors nervous because much like when James White and his family set up on the banks for the Tennessee River, surrounded by other long-time residents, the stranger in the area portends a wave of other settlers who will fundamentally change where they live. Anyone can understand the consternation the new interlopers would cause.
In an informal poll of my office, the word Gentrification is a mystery to most. Most think it means Improvement, Revitalization, Growth and a number of other good-sounding things. We’re real estate agents! Bringing higher home values, growing great neighborhoods and affecting change and development are all ways that we make a living.
It is a real disconnect between those who are living in the areas that are being Gentrified and those who it is affecting. The areas around Parkridge and Park City that have undergone such growth now have a number of residents and former residents who have had to scramble to find other housing, usually far away from their friends and families in areas on the other side of the interstate – areas like Fountain City, Mascot, farther East, farther North or deep into the county in any direction. Real estate agents should be very careful about bandying around words and the way they describe the change that they are assisting to affect throughout the area. Gentrification is one of those words that can be seen as insensitive and lacking in caring that we all want to have for ALL our neighbors.
Between us all, the team of Hutch & Howard have lived in and loved things about every major section of Knoxville. From the Halls to Hardin Valley, Solway to Seymour and everywhere in between – we love all, serve all and would love to help you sell your home. Call Rob and Brandon at 865-219-2006 to help you get ON the market or IN the market today!