So true -- explore San Francisco's Mission District these days and you can wander from breakfast spot, to hip cafe, to upscale ethnic restaurant, to neighborhood bar. The 'hood is full of new energy (and money). As a long time resident, I try to appreciate the newcomers rather than resent them. They are adding delight to the place, yet I have to wonder where my less affluent neighbors are going.
But, despite its title, Ehrenhalt's survey of cities is actually more wide-ranging and, to me, interesting than just a nod to contemporary hipster-villes. Who knew that Manhattan's Wall Street has become a bedroom community where office space has been converted to condos?
I have long noticed that people of color are settling in suburbs (I'm a Californian, ahead of the game, after all). That's where many of my former neighbors have gone. That is also where new immigrants go today.
Gwinnett County outside Atlanta is one such destination, a county of strip malls and striving Asian Americans.
One of Ehrenhalt's most interesting conclusions is that cities that have been hospitable to immigrants have been the most successful. Philadelphia serves as an example of a city where immigration didn't happen, in his telling due to tax policies that constrained property transfers.
All of this is fine -- but what happens to poor people? After all, the last decade seen a significant rise in the number of poor people? In the country of the Great Inversion, they may find themselves stuck without transportation or decent jobs in exurbs with little tax base, adjacent to the longstanding rural poor.
Reviews of this book tell me that Ehrenhalt developed his theories at least in part by spending ten years walking U.S. cities. It shows -- his story is vivid. Like watching the changes in my own neighborhood, it made me both happy and uneasy. Should I ever get a chance, I want to walk many of these places and feel for myself how cities are changing.