new yuppie heaven
professionals bring change to mixed reviews.
Beetle-Will it be pushed out of the neighborhood by
If you go out
for lunch in South Boston, you'll find it mostly a meat and potatoes
town. Irish beer, of course, is also a must.
Yet every rule
has its exceptions. Take Café Arpeggio on West Broadway.
It is 100 percent hamburger free, instead serving dishes like Sesame
Pesto Vegetarian Melts and Tabulleh Hummous Roll-Ups. Arpeggio doesn't
sell beer either, but it offers up coffee in all thinkable flavors
and sizes. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were in Cambridge
or the Back Bay.
Which is exactly
the point. "Southie," long known as Boston's tough, working
class, Irish neighborhood is showing signs of change.
Keith Gould's family
owns Café Arpeggio. Gould, 20, says all kinds of people come
by, but that most of their regular customers are young professionals.
Southie people do come by, but they seem to think our coffee is
too expensive, although it's cheaper than in places like Starbucks,"
he says. " We rely more on the yuppies. If it hadn't been for
them, we would never have survived here.
Arpeggio on Southie's West Broadway.
infamous in Boston for crime, drugs and general roughness, was as
recently as 1994 the subject of a U.S. News & World Report article
entitled "The White Underclass." The piece cited census
data showing that the lower part of South Boston had the highest
concentration of poor whites in America.
is Boston's Irish neighborhood.
In recent years,
however, the neighborhood's median household income has increased.
Young professionals have started to look across Broadway Bridge
to housing they can afford. Census data shows that from 1998 to
2002, the average price for a South Boston apartment increased from
$160,000 to $299,000.
A square foot
of hardwood floor is still considerably cheaper in South Boston
than in most other Boston neighborhoods. Realtor Gibson Domain Domain
says a South Boston apartment will sell for about $300 per square
foot, whereas the equivalent in the Back Bay would cost around $1,000.
Nevertheless, many long-term
residents are finding it too expensive to stay. They are selling
their apartments and moving to more affordable suburbs.
works at O'Kiley Real Estate, South Boston's oldest real estate
agency. She does not hesitate when asked to describe her most typical
customer. Lately, she says, the most common house buyers are young
professionals, either recently or soon-to-be married. They are not
from South Boston, and they are fresh out of college. They work
in the center of Boston and are looking to buy their first apartment
not too far from where they work.
traditional three-family deckers more and more often become the
first condo a professional couple owns," Hartman says. "You
get much more for your money in Southie than in other parts of Boston.
I don't think the newly renovated South Boston beach has scared
anyone away so far, and besides, the city center is really close
walking up the aisle...
Arpeggio, Michelle Setten enjoys a cup of coffee. She has a pile
of pink envelopes in front of her on the table. Between every sip
of coffee, she sticks stamps on the envelopes. And yes, they are
is originally from New Jersey. She moved to Boston three years ago,
and is currently living in Beacon Hill. But Setten's fiancé,
Kieran McCabe, also from New Jersey, bought a condo in South Boston
one year ago. The apartment near the corner of K and 7th Streets
will also be Setten's home after the couple marries in September.
went to college, he was living in student apartments in Kenmore
and in Brighton. After graduating, he moved to Milton. Three years
ago, the Web designer and a friend decided to find a bigger place.
McCabe also wanted to live closer to Boston since he worked downtown.
But the two friends didn't really know where to start looking. They
did not have a lot of money to spend, so neighborhoods such as the
Back Bay and Beacon Hill were out of the question.
"I had heard about
South Boston, but because of its bad reputation, I had never even
thought of going there," McCabe says. "But when my friend
said; 'let's check it out down there,' I thought; 'why not,' and
as soon as we got there, I didn't want to look anywhere else."
The young men found a
1,500 square foot apartment that they rented for $1,700 per month.
McCabe's friend moved out two years ago, and McCabe's brother Aron
moved in. Within a year, the McCabe brothers decided to buy the
Michelle and I are married, Aron's got to go," McCabe says.
"He loves it here too, so he'll be looking for his own place
on the same block."
McCabe, Web designer and Southie newcomer
Setten and McCabe
both feel at home in South Boston. He says he has never had such
a neighborhood feeling before. McCabe says locals have made him
feel very welcome on the block where he lives; it feels like everybody
"Before I moved
here, I had the same prejudices as everybody else," he says.
"People have all these ideas that this neighborhood is very
rough, that it's not diverse, that the transportation is terrible,
you name it. But none of this is true. We even know this gay couple
that is living here without any trouble."
Although he doesn't notice
it personally, McCabe believes many old-timers feel resentment towards
the yuppies moving to their neighborhood. He says he can understand
how people who have lived somewhere for a long time, dislike that
things change, and that housing prices are rising because of these
changes. He also says he understands that many locals dislike the
fact that yuppies use South Boston as their playground for a few
years before moving out to more expensive areas.
"I do understand
people's resentment," he says. "But hey, that's just the
way it is. We will probably move out at some point, too. We'll stay
here for at least a few years, but we eventually want to end up
in the suburbs. Michelle and I both grew up in New York suburbs,
and we want that kind of surroundings for our children, too."
If he wasn't getting
married, or if he could afford a bigger place, McCabe says he would
stay in South Boston.
"I love my apartment,
my block, my neighbors and how I can walk my dogs on the beach,"
he says. "And I can even ride my bike to work. I can't beat
be the last affordable place close to the city," McCabe adds.
"Maybe in five years, Dorchester will be where South Boston
is now. In a few years, people will start realizing they can make
good profit selling their places and moving out of the neighborhood.
This is nothing less than a goldmine. I feel that I've been very
development , old-timer resentment
Broadway: West and East Broadway are South Boston's
development along the South Boston waterfront may ensure a prosperous
future for the blue-collar neighborhood. The construction of a convention
center and a luxury hotel means new jobs for South Bostonians. But
it also means the neighborhood will become more attractive to outsiders.
There is money to be made in the real estate sector.
But that's little
consolation to those who choose to live here. David McLeod, a South
Boston resident of 30 years, blames the rising housing prices on
the yuppies. He says he was more or less homeless for two years
because he couldn't afford to pay the rent in South Boston. He says
it's unfair that long-time residents have to go because of the newcomers.
"The yuppies destroy
the neighborhood," he says. "Because of them, the apartments
here have become ridiculously overpriced. Southie people have to
move out because of these youngsters who work their asses off so
they can spend their dead money. Is Southie gonna become the new
Greenwich Village or what?"
More arts and
culture also have come to Southie in the past few years. Galleries
and art exhibitions are popping up here and there, and recently,
poetry slams and literature readings have also become popular.
Michael Olmsted moved to South Boston from Cambridge eight years
ago. He has several artist friends there, and he is involved in
arranging the poetry slams. Olmsted, 57, says both locals and yuppies
are participating in South Boston's blooming cultural life, but
that yuppies and other newcomers are those who made the neighborhood
Olmsted, arts promoter
not that much 'we are us and they are them' going on here anymore,"
he says. "Southie has become more open, it's even become trendy
to live here. It's not trendy enough to be called the new Greenwich
Village or anything, but who knows: in a couple of years, maybe."
'The kind of citizens
Although some don't mind, there is undoubtedly resentment at the
mere mention of the word "yuppie." But the long arm of
the law is pleased with the "y" word's growing presence.
District C-6 Commanding
Officer Robert Cunningham joined the South Boston police two years
ago. He says he has seen crime rates drop since he started his current
"The newcomers sure aren't giving us any trouble," he
says. "They seem to be behaving in accordance with the law,
and that's the kind of citizen we want here in South Boston."
agent Patrick Lynch grew up in the Old Harbor projects in South
Boston. He lived in the neighborhood all his life. But three years
ago, it became too expensive for him. He moved to Dorchester, where
he could afford a condo, and he is planning to move back to Southie
as soon as he has saved enough money to buy an apartment there.
But Lynch does not mind the yuppies moving to his childhood neighborhood.
bother me. In general, I think it's positive that yuppies are moving
to Southie. It brings the housing prices up, yes, but it also brings
the housing quality up. If no one had wanted to move in there, I
don't think the quality of things had been very high."
Lynch, 37, says disgruntled
locals who are mad at the yuppies need to get a grip, and instead
focus on how they can make things work.
"All this complaining,
it's ridiculous! You can sit around complaining all day if you want,
but at the end of the day, it's not gonna get you anywhere. Guess
what? Life isn't fair!"
Lynch says growing up
in the projects, he soon realized blaming others wouldn't get him
anywhere. He and many of his friends from the projects took responsibility
for their own situation. He says now they are all doing pretty well.
had spent half the time they spend whining trying to make their
own situation better, I'm sure they would have had a less lot to
whine over today."