Jean-Paul Villere: Where hipsters dwell

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Jean-Paul Villere

Chances are if you rent affordably in New Orleans, your days may be numbered.  And when you seek your next lease, the hood you now call home may have effectively priced you out.  Such is the path of desirability and real estate.  Supply and demand will either keep you cozy in your digs or scrapping for the leftovers, and even the latter have been known to gouge too.  The Crescent City on the whole races on in an uber competitive rental market, but some areas – for example, Bywater – possess a hyper-draw that even the trust-funded are now finding uncool.  What gives?  You know the answer.  The tried and true recipe of gentrification requires a heaping two cups of unwashed hipster before a neighborhood can be cooked for mass consumption, and ladies and gentlemen, you may now safely stick a fork in Bywater.  She’s done.

Some will meander just so over St Claude, but not past Claiborne for the blight might be too great (only maybe just for now).  And some will add a bridge to their commute a la Holy Cross.  But know your history and remember: these areas all took water, and just may again some day, plus there’s still no real-deal grocery on the radar.  So you either renew your membership to the food desert or you mosey on.  But to where?  The blue collar set still make a blue collar wage.  Two logical choices float to the top: 7th Ward / Treme and – – – wait for it – – – Central City.

Okay, lumping both sides of Esplanade together isn’t completely fair, however it isn’t completely inaccurate either.  That new bike lane along the ridge will be a magnet for the car-less and careless alike, but mostly it’ll be a beacon to old school, Old World progress that draws the active out and layers a level of density to a neighborhood little else can compare to.  In a word: impact.  A very positive impact, despite the car-loving naysayers, and yes, my friends, the vocal dectractor set are out there.  Boo on bikes, they say.  More road for me.  And so on.  But it’s decided, and the orange cones strewn from NOMA to the FQ sound this change with resounding, reflective clarity.  To be fair, the hipsters didn’t do this, but to be sure, their tall bikes will surely trek the shady oaks where Degas once stood.  Ultimately the proximity to Bywater from here also happens to be completely manageable.  So be it closeness of jobs, friends, and whatever the Esplanade Ridge makes geographic sense.  Plus that new Whole Foods on Broad on the horizon?  Fuhgeddaboutit.  

Let’s also remember our local grocers in Canseco’s and Terranova’s, keeping Esplanade fed for the longest.  How often do you think Whole Foods collectively kick themselves for leaving MidCity when they did?  But I digress.

Back it up to Central City and quizzically wonder on that for a moment.  Really?  Central City?!  A-yep.  It’s mostly dry, it’s just across the interstate from the Warehouse District on the one side, and it snuggles up to the Garden Districts and Uptown on the others.  Plus these areas benefit from new grocery sites in The Fresh Market at St. Charles and Louisiana and the newest Rouses on Baronne.  There aren’t bike lanes aplenty in these parts, but there also happen to be wider one-way streets so navigating two wheels ain’t so bad.  Translation: any possible commute for the displaced Bywater-ite = very doable.

And maybe none of this will come to pass.  Maybe Bywater will retain and grow in its present populace.  My Magic 8 Ball says otherwise.  It also foretells of the day in the not too distant future when we will all begin to utter new and reclassified geographic boundaries like “Upper Central City” and the “Cemetery District,” AKA Lafayette Cemetery No. 2.  Shrug it off for now, but let’s talk in 18-24 months, shall we?

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

17 thoughts on “Jean-Paul Villere: Where hipsters dwell

  1. Quite right. Central City, the area around the new VA and the new prison–watching them closely. Oretha Haley’s doing nicely….. Love the idea of Whole Foods kicking themselves. 🙂

  2. Your predictions are spot on, my friend. I have lived in the 7th Ward near St. Bernard and Broad for nearly 30 years and I also sense hipster-esque change on the horizon there.

    I’ve been seeing people (gonna use a euphemism, here) *I’ve never seen before*, riding bikes at all hours of the night and frequenting my neighborhood corner stores.

  3. Agreed, Bywater will continue to appreciate and other areas will boom as long as Nola continues its current trajectory after the federal money dries up. Treme is already on the way up and Mid-City will also boom when the medical development is open and rolling. Robert is about to take over the old Schweggmann’s in Marigny too ( which will only push values higher over there. Now is a good time to take a look at Central City…

  4. I think attention should be paid to Treme, between rampart and claiborne, and between esplanade and st. philip. That is where I bought a house just after katrina, and I love the neighborhood. It’s quick walking distance to the Quarter and we have had minimal crime in the 7 years I have been here. A lot of renovation is happening and the area is home to all kinds of people. I hope what happened to Marigny in the last 30 years happens to this neighborhood, too.

  5. Also, I have to say that I think you’re a little optimistic about Central City. It’s too early. I would be very wary about buying or renting property there right now, and mostly because of the type of crime that is still happening there.

  6. It’s not hip to rent in the first place, A person looking for cheap rent is, virtually by definition, relegated to second class neighborhoods. It has been possible to find neighborhoods that most people think of as second class that have the elements that a person consciously trying to be hip can find workable. If his perceptions are right, he can steal a few years of value.

  7. What a vapid conversation, perhaps you all should cross over the I10 to the new Metairie where you were raised with no “blight” or even better..maybe make the trek back to your suburban hometown where you were raised…That’s it.. gentrify the cool and hip and what a noble mission.

  8. The Gutter punk/hipster displacement has been occuring for a couple years and will no doubt continue. Central city has long been a natural succession except for the extreme deterioration of the housing stock and the multiple homicides each month. The real diamonds are over St Claude Ave where blue collar money can still make an excellent return and benefit from all the hipster coolness its taken Bywater 15 yrs to generate.

    • I think he considers the LGD to have already gentrified. My rent in the LGD is still pretty cheap – it ain’t the Upper East Side yet – but there are now million-dollar homes on Coliseum Square, so I think the neighborhood has already “made it”.

    • I was in the Bywater initially, and our house was terrible, and the landlord was ignorant, so we found replacements and moved to CC. 3 years later I am seeing slight changes, but the big thing in my neighborhood, there are less gunshots and muggings; partly due to a huge drug bust, less turf war. My biggest concerns are for the people who’ve been living in this neighborhood for many years; they should feel at home here, but it is changing. I hope it is positive for everyone. As for the gutterpunks: please stop flying signs in some of the poorest neighborhoods I have seen outside of Indian Reservations 😉

      Be more considerate. If you don’t want to work for money, then don’t ask for money.

      Ever since the word “hipster” appeared I have worked on ignoring it. I don’t like hearing people complain about them. Half the time I hear people talk about them I think “are you that different?”. We are living in a time where people are very transient and nomadic. People are moving away from theirs roots in more than geographic ways. I moved here for work, and with very little money. I’ve been on my own since 18, and have always worked and payed for my way. However, I am white, and may dress in a bright purple shirt at times, or may ride a bicycle. Does this make me a??? HIPSTER!!??… Buzzword…Hype… A hipster is like this fake common enemy that all these white people talk about, but I feel like everything I have heard about them makes many of you one of them. It’s like being racist in a way. Judging the majority based on some.

      However, young self-entitled people of privilege better be respectful when they show in this neighborhood…I don’t have time to tolerate that nonsense.

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