Developers have figured out the secret sauce for gentrifying neighborhoods

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Developers have figured out the secret sauce for gentrifying neighborhoods

First came the new coffee shops—two of them—in 2009. Newcomers had been trickling in for a few years, but that’s when the gentrification of New York’s Crown Heights began to attract wider attention (paywall). Next up: The hipster bars, the fancy pizza, the new real estate brokers, all speaking to the neighborhood’s transformation. Twenty-four years ago, this Brooklyn neighborhood was the scene of ugly race riots, fueled by long-simmering tensions between black and Jewish residents. But by 2012, the area had become typical of the gentrification that’s overtaking so many of the world’s largest cities as they assume the mantle of economic growth drivers.

Often, at least in America, we think of regular people as the agents of change—the artist, the boutique coffee shop owner, the tech startup. But as much as gentrification is an organic process, fueled by opportunity seekers and bargain hunters, it’s developers and financiers who have become the savvy midwives of change. Once they detect the early signs of gentrification, they bring on the serious money.

In the case of Crown Heights, the serious money came from BFC Partners and Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group, which teamed up with local blogger-cum-developer Jonathan Butler to transform a former Studebaker service station into 1000 Dean, a development project that is a wannabe entrepreneur’s dream. The various parts of the building could almost serve as the essential gentrification checklist. Artisanal beer hall? Check. Hipster coffee house? Event space? Gourmet food options? Yes, check. Grouped together as Berg’n, all share the ground floor of 1000 Dean, with Butler’s trendy Brooklyn Flea joining in the winter months. []

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