We received our newest issue of This Old House magazine the other day. I thumbed through it and ran across this question in the Paperwork section of the magazine:
"Five years ago, I bought a great old house in a neighborhood on the verge of a turnaround. But the tide hasn't turned yet, and I'm wondering whether to sell the house or hold out a little longer. Is there any way to predict an upswing?"
I'm not going to write the entire response (and I can't link to the question because the new issue isn't on their site yet). It basically said there really is no sure-fire way to tell but a homeowner can study his or her neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. For example, take note of other home renovations in progress, test scores at the local schools, the status of area crime rates, and check to see whether or not the neighborhood might qualify as a designated historic district. In addition, the homeowner can do his or her part by maintaining the curb appeal of their home.
But what I found to be most interesting is the quote that was bolded and set out to the side of the answer. This is what it said:
"Always buy where there's a Starbucks moving in. It's a sure sign that things are improving."
I actually laughed out loud when I read this quote. Part of it was out of excitement and part of it is because of the issues that have been playing out in Irvington over the past few months. For those of you that aren't familiar with Irvington, it is a historic neighborhood that has been basically stable for a long time. Like most urban neighborhoods, however, it has seen its share of commercial disinvestment and plagued by some homes that have fallen into disrepair. My husband and I bought our house despite these facts because we loved the neighborhood. And also because the status of the area allowed us to be able to afford much more home than if we followed everyone else in the city and moved to the north side. It was announced last November that Starbucks wanted to move into the historic commercial district of Irvington. There has been some going back and forth about the plans (both building and site) as the area has recently been designated a local historic district which means there are certain design guidelines, setbacks, etc. to follow. Neighbors seem to be divided, many want Starbucks to come into the neighborhood exactly for the reason quoted above. However, other neighbors believe that the historic designation should be taken seriously and we should not be so willing to lay down just because a Starbucks wants to come into the area.
I myself am on the fence on this issue. Chad and I are putting a lot of money and sweat equity into this house and we would actually like to live here forever. Of course, we want to see an improved commercial district, raised property values, and the respect from the rest of the city that this neighborhood deserves. However, am I worried that these things won't happen if Starbucks doesn't move in? No. Am I stressing over where I'm going to get my next spiced pumpkin latte? No way. (I can name seven starbucks within a ten minute drive from my house and a nice local coffee shop as well.) Would I like to see Starbucks move into Irvington? OF COURSE. I happen to love Starbucks and have spent a small fortune there. I do think we need to compromise with them and the developer but I don't think we need to be lenient on the historic designation rules or the fact that the development needs to really fit into the fabric that is already in place. If we break the rules now, who will be next?