The downtown's of small and medium sized cites, once left for dead by suburbia and shopping malls have, not unlike vinyl LP's, photographic film and cassette tapes, refused to die. Abandoned and affordable historic buildings and low income housing have steadily been encroached upon by gentrification. Drawn by the understandable appeal of vintage architecture and urban density these places have become a kind of frontier zone where various social trends of the early 21st century bump up against one another in an uneasy equilibrium. On the positive side this has created true mixed communities where peoples of varied backgrounds and income levels actually live together. Yet there still exists tension and conflict as developers see profit potential in these spaces which drives up property values and rents, potentially destroying much of what these areas so interesting in the first place.
These urban spaces are often filled with contradictions. A second hand store sits next to a high end food store, a farmers market faces a run down tavern. Numerous empty storefronts attest to the difficulty of running a viable business in these locations yet create a kind of shabby chic vibe. Varied scars of redevelopment schemes and fires abound, parking lots being but one example. Yet the draw to such places is irresistible for reasons as varied as nostalgia, trendiness and affordability.