Editorial: The State of JP

February 14, 2014
By

The annual State of Our Neighborhood forum convenes on Feb. 27, co-sponsored by the Gazette, offers Jamaica Plain a chance to take stock.

“Ain’t No One Can Afford This” is this year’s provocative theme, one that notes a turning point in the neighborhood’s history.

Of course, many people can afford JP—if only just barely. But they belong to an increasingly narrow demographic. Economically, racially, generationally, JP’s population is becoming less diverse. JP small businesses and nonprofits face similar struggles.

JP began well over two centuries ago as estates and summer cottages of the very rich. Starting in the mid-1800s, its working- and middle-class population grew and the neighborhood became a “streetcar suburb” of downtown. By the 1970s, artists, hippies and bohemians seeking cheap housing flocked to JP, imbuing it with the alternative and activist culture it remains famous for.

As usual, those folks were harbingers of gentrification as well. The neighborhood, like most of Boston, is one of the country’s most expensive places to live, and the costs are only rising. For many property owners, this is a financial success. For many, many more residents, this is called being a victim of that success. In many ways, JP is returning to its roots as home to a wealthy elite.

JP is not unique in its gentrification. But it is special in its self-awareness and self-direction. Can JP solve the puzzle of achieving success and inclusion at the same time? Is it time to accept a new era of luxury living?

Either way, it should be a remarkable conversation, just as it is remarkable that JP has such events as the State of the Neighborhood.