One of the first things that appalled me about Florida was the inescapability of chain store shopping. Plazas bleed into strip malls and cast a sort of all-encompassing gentrification over the state. Over the years, I’ve softened. I don’t particularly like seeing Marshalls looming over Circuit City near Target. But you have to buy toilet paper somewhere.
When I read a quote from Scott Murray, an artist who recently opened Twenty Twenty, a venue in Wynwood arts district, whining about the presence of the Midtown Miami, I had to chortle over its irony.
“It is the first real imminent threat of gentrification to the neighborhood,” said Murray, of the blotch of chain stores and condos in “Frontier Town” in the second issue of MAP, a slick, stylish culture magazine. “I used to love the empty storage lot and the train layover that was there before Midtown.”
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Agreed, the nest of chain stores is not pretty. The Target bulls-eye is hardly as inspiring as the urban grit in the crack-glossed eyes of prostitutes and wizened faces of bums sleeping in open spaces. But the first real threat of gentrification to gritty neighborhoods turned art havens is often the arrival of the artists. Then come the galleries. Where there is money (at least, for some), commercial interests follow. Many long-time residents can better afford what Target offers than some of that amazing art in Wynwood. Gentrification brings conveniences to communities, where some people probably find urban isolation far less appealing than the artists who more recently arrived. --Janine Zeitlin