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also attempt to do the impossible: to give

an objective perspective on the eternally

subjective issue of cool.

What is a Cool Street?

The cycle of growth, decay and rebirth in

our cities is nothing new. Macro trends such

as the rise of the suburbs in the 1960's, new

urbanism in the 2010's, or countless waves

of immigration over the past couple of

hundred years have impacted and sped

those timetables along. However, at the

neighborhood level, real estate costs have

always been the primary force driving this

cycle. That has not changed and it never

will. But while neighborhood amenities,

particularly cultural ones, have always

played a role in urban renewal efforts, many

neighborhoods have gone through such

transformations without the issue of

“hipness” ever entering into the discussion.

Most great cities have had their traditional

bohemian enclaves where literature, the arts,

and culture (or counter-culture) have

flourished. But the rise and fall of those

neighborhoods typically was slow, organic

and non-commercial. It was more likely to be

driven by philosophical or intellectual

movements than by any sort of demographic

trend. And while these neighborhoods

tended to attract unique niche subcultures,

their appeal rarely carried over to the

mainstream. This is where the current Cool

Streets trend differs. Hip neighborhoods are

now a mainstream aspiration.

The Cool Street Cycle:

From Edgy to Prime Hipness

to Mainstream

The pattern of urban renewal has not

changed much over the past 50 years; a

neighborhood endures a period of neglect,

rising crime and social ills drive home values

down, cheap real estate eventually lures

new residents, and the neighborhood

stabilizes and then rebounds as additional

waves of residents and new businesses

move in. Historically, this process often took

decades. What also might be most different

about the current Cool Street trend is the

sheer speed with which a neighborhood can

reinvent itself. Some of the Cool Street

neighborhoods in our report have moved

from “troubled” to “prime hipness” in a

matter of just a few years. Likewise, the path

from “prime hipness” to “gone mainstream”

has never been shorter. Just ask the former

hipster residents of Williamsburg.

Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood

might be the poster child for the current

Cool Streets movement. Through the 1990's,

it was a mostly working class immigrant

community that struggled with varying

degrees of neglect and urban decay over

the previous four decades. While Manhattan

apartment rents consistently grew at an

annual rate of 10% or more from 1995 to

2000, rates remained relatively flat in

Williamsburg. In fact, housing costs there

typically averaged anywhere from one third

to one half of those across the East River.

On paper the trends were a world apart, not

just the reality of one subway stop.

Cool Streets are serving

as an incubator of sorts

for what will likely be the

hottest new retail concepts

of tomorrow...