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How to Gentrify a Neighborhood

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Hipster is the new yuppie.

Once, whenever a neighborhood's demographics shifted and housing costs ticked upward, it was "yuppies" in the firing line of vitriol. Now, it is "hipsters" and the much-derided, parent-funded "trustafarians" who take the hit. Their stereotype Buddy Holly glasses, flannel shirts and taste for all things organic and free-trade are mocked and take the blame for low-income residents being squeezed out of their neighborhood.

Higher-priced coffee appearing everywhere is a sure sign a neighborhood is gentrifying.

The debate rages on, chicken-or-the-egg style, over whether these stereotyped folks are to blame for gentrification, or a side effect. There are similar arguments over whether gentrification is a good thing -- bringing new life and a stronger economy to poor, crime-plagued areas -- or a disaster that uproots long-time residents and waters down any culture and diversity that once flourished.

Across the country a multitude of once affordable, diverse neighborhoods, albeit troubled in many cases, have undergone a gentrification makeover: the Williamsburg and Park Slope sections of Brooklyn; Portland's Pearl District; Toledo's Old West End, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury and Tenderloin districts; Federal Hill in Baltimore; Boston's South End and Jamaica Plain. The list goes coast to coast.

No matter what side of the debates one might take, there are nevertheless omens that precede neighborhood gentrification and trends to spot as the change in character progresses.

Let's say you are a developer, real estate speculator looking to flip houses, a real estate agent or even a politician who sees benefit and profit in a neighborhood's "revitalization." What would your blueprint be to gentrify an area, step by step? And if you're a resident of a targeted area, what are the warning signs you might wind up priced -- and pushed -- out?

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