Logan Square inversion
Logan Square once again features prominently in the national news media in the August 13, 2008 issue of The New Republic, (not sure if it’s) on newsstands now (but it’s definitely on-line). In the featured article, “Trading Places,” author Alan Ehrenhalt writes:
…The massive outward migration of the affluent that characterized the second half of the twentieth century is coming to an end.
Chicago — including specifically Logan Square — is much used as an example of demographic changes causing an inversion of the traditional American inner-city poor/outer suburb affluent, pattern of settlement.
I can’t entirely agree with the author’s characterization of Logan Square changing dramatically in just the past five years. For example, he refers to a restaurant on the square that “…attracts long lines of customers who drive in from the suburbs on weekend evenings,” which I gather is Lula Café (also see video below), but Lula has been
on the square for at least eight years, and husband and wife chefs/owners met while cooking at its predecessor, Logan Beach, which set the scene in the same location. The square itself has attracted considerable investment over the past 10-12 years, and the boulevards even longer, but our commercial corridors have not experienced much change, let alone anything near dramatic change. Ehrenhalt, though, uses Logan Square to illustrate how cities are attracting the very people that once fled to the suburbs in search of their ideal.
To describe what has happened virtually overnight in Logan Square as gentrification is to miss the point. Chicago, like much of America is rearranging itself, and the result is an entire metropolitan area that looks considerably different from what it looked like when this decade started.
There is already much on-line discussion of the article and the issue of demographic inversion — whether it even exists and, if it does, if it’s a good thing, or if it’s just a more PC term for the G-word (gentrification). If it does exist, though, I want to focus on one of the reasons Ehrenhalt highlights as to why.
“Friends” or “Father Knows Best”?
While simplistic, Ehrenhalt makes an astute observation of a correlation between the T.V. sitcoms of each generation influencing its choice about where to live. Whether we like it or not, or whether we’d like to admit it, we often shape our ideals from popular culture, and T.V. has been a powerful force in popular culture.
The generation raised on “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” singles living in apartment buildings in Manhattan, has formed a different ideal for where and how to live than the generation raised on the traditional family unit living in the white frame house on Maple Street of “Father Knows Best.” Of course there are societal changes as well, such as later marriages and smaller families, but the T.V. influence is compelling (to me).
“Will & Grace” and “Sex and the City”
The author attributes the inversion both to healthy, active, wealthy seniors choosing to live in central cities and to young adults, many raised in affluent suburbs, making different choices about where and how to live.
I’m going to make the assumption/observation that the wealthy seniors are primarily moving downtown, and the young adults are moving both downtown and to neighborhoods — like Logan Square — that they can afford. In “Sex and the City,” reality was suspended to allow Carrie to live alone in a relatively spacious apartment in Manhattan, but it was clear that for the most part Grace could not afford Manhattan but for Will’s largesse, and Monica and Rachel kept a low profile in order to maintain a deceased aunt’s apartment rent controlled.
Chicago is not Manhattan, and young adults can still afford Logan Square — especially if they live without a car in this transportation advantaged neighborhood (see Fuel-efficient neighborhoods). After all, the “Seinfeld” gang only borrowed a car on occasion, and wasn’t Carrie the only one of the girls who knew how to drive?
A conversation starter: Who’s your sitcom? What’s your ideal place to live? Did one influence the other?