The pace of change in this city is breathtaking. The above photo is a brand-new Ted’s Bulletin, a local chain featuring “adult milkshakes” and reinvented comfort food. It’s part of a slew of new development along 14th Street – condos, bars and coffee shops that offer a virtually uninterrupted hipster paradise in the center of the city.
It’s unbelievable for anyone who remembers what this neighborhood was like in the 90s. I lived at 15th and Swann and avoided 14th St – it was nothing but urban blight. You hurried through the neighborhood lest you be accosted by drug addicts and homeless people. And you certainly didn’t go to the other side of 14th – god knows what was happening over there.
14th and Swann was home to a laundromat. On the same block was a methadone clinic. Across the street was a used-car lot and a second-hand store. The neighborhood was gritty and half-abandoned. It had been that way since the 1968 riots and seemed like it would never change. But it did.
For better? Worse? A lot of my novel Murder in Ocean Hall takes place in this neighborhood and the book reflects my ambivalence about the change. It’s undeniably for the better but I also hate that 14th Street has become a playground for conspicuous consumption, a place to buy skinny jeans, eat crepes and go to brunch.
I liked the grit, and miss it now that it’s gone.