Neighborhoods that are perceived by outsiders as economically successful have created a cultural niche that draws in visitors with a mixture of shops and amenities that appeal to a particular demographic. In essence, stakeholders in neighborhoods are trying to create or build upon a well-crafted sense of place.
Many neighborhoods have an economic strategy where they are specifically selling a cultural ambiance to attract customers. Place is just were commodities are sold–place IS the commodity in these instances.
Air BnB is revolutionizing who can economically profit from this commodity of place. I first learned about Air BnB through this TED talk:
On this site neighborhoods are ranked and classified as:
- Dining Options
- Loved by locals
- Great Transit
By selecting which attributes are important to you for your visit, the metric is supposed to find the “perfect” neighborhood for you.
The selling of a neighborhood feel is increasingly becoming the main way that Air BnB is creating trust between strangers. This is not just Air BnB, so many companies, businesses and cities are also working on crafting neighborhoods. As city planners try to revitalize struggling neighborhoods, this can be seen as controversial to some residents that resent gentrification. Some neighborhoods feel like there are ‘faking it’ and lack authenticity in how they’ve created their place.
Travel and Leisure ranked Providence as one of America’s top cities. Having lived in the Providence metropolitan area for the last 4 years, this is almost shocking considering that locals frequently berate this city. The city of Providence is highly rated by many visitors, but residents have a less favorable perception of their city. Why would this be? Is it simply because Providence doesn’t measure up to neighbors New York and Boston? According to these metrics, Providence outranks the larger cities in the region that get the limelight, but it’s as though Providence has a collective self-esteem issue and fails to recognize some of it virtues.
Tourists and residents often experience the city (or neighborhood) in very different ways, even if they are occupying the identical space.
Questions to Ponder: What are the ‘sellable’ attributes of your neighborhood? How do these attributes impact a) the businesses b) the cultural landscape and c) the residents? Can you think of instances where a neighborhood has tried to craft a new ambiance? Did it feel organic of forced? Does that matter?
Recommendations for analyzing a neighborhood:
- stroll the neighborhood in a variety of transportation methods. You get a different sense of a neighborhood in on a bike or walking than you do by car. Those 3 different experiences are 3 separate lens’ into understanding the neighborhood.
- Try different times of day and different seasons. What buildings are there? Who uses them?
- Talk to some residents who have been there for generations. Ask them how the neighborhood has changed.
- Take pictures. Not just of the beautiful places, but also the regular, the mundane and the interesting. Use this as a way to document your perspectives on the neighborhood.