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Urban planning

Seven examples of successful gentrification in cities around the world, from Cape Town to Beirut

Run-down urban areas, once blighted by crime and drugs, are transformed into trendy areas, full of artists’ enclaves, boutique hotels, bars and restaurants. These seven cities have been rebranded by developers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2017, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 October, 2017, 4:55pm

Gentrification is a double-edged sword. It can save a crumbling neighbourhoods from the wrecking ball, but at the risk of altering the social fabric, as trendy cafes, restaurants and shops move in and replace traditional businesses.

Here are seven cities around the world where gentrification has revived run-down areas.

Cape Town, South Africa

In what was once a ramshackle suburb plagued with crack houses, Woodstock is now a thriving market neighbourhood centred around The Old Biscuit Mill. The brick building showcases the wares of traditional craftsmen and is a haven for celebrated cosmopolitan restaurants, organic farmers, art galleries and antique shops.

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Sea Point, a stone’s throw from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, was once a crime-ridden spot populated by squatters. Today it is a capitalist’s dream, with wine bars, international food markets and an influx of lifestyle businesses.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon’s medieval Mouraria neighbourhood is arguably the city’s most multicultural district and was run-down until renovation work started in 2009. Now it’s been revived as a dining hub with amazing hilltop views.

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Construction has begun on escalators that will take visitors comfortably from the city centre past Mouraria’s cobbled squares to Lisbon’s hilltop castle.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Whether it’s funky shophouse interiors or modern art you’re after, the Villa Crespo neighbourhood in Buenos Aires will have you covered. The area has strong links to the Jewish community and today hosts historic synagogues, artist squats and concept-driven bars and restaurants, such as an intriguing David Lynch-inspired bar – Club Silencio – that requires guests to be blindfolded.

Manila, Philippines

Touted as a meeting point for artists and creative types, Manila’s Cubao Expo precinct used to be home to a community of cobblers. Today, the space includes trendy Latin-style tango and salsa bars, antique shops and Tex-Mex pop-up joints.

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In casual Maginhawa Street, you’ll find cuisines to satisfy any craving. The hipster haven is also home to Bookay-Ukay, one of Manila’s most popular second-hand bookstores.

Mexico City, Mexico

Loved by photographers, designers and artists, Mexico City is seeing some of its neighbourhoods, such as La Roma, dim their sheen in the face of modernisation. La Roma has a rich literary association, once home of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, and its chaotic markets have been replaced with chic gourmet restaurants and Parisian and Venetian-styled outdoor cafes.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv is an unapparent hedonist’s retreat with lively nightlife, well-tended beaches and areas that attract the urban bohemian. Florentin was an area reserved for commerce and trade, that spawned a television series of the same name in the 1990s. Today it offers a peek into the lives of Tel Aviv’s trendsetters. In the Bauhaus-inspired buildings, you’ll find artists who work at reinterpreting the political and religious divisions that define the buzzing city.

Beirut, Lebanon

Idyllic hilly neighbourhoods, an expansive seaside boulevard and a potpourri of faiths and cultures make Beirut an underrated charmer. In Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael, you’ll find plenty of continental restaurants. There’s also colourfully painted “artists’ stairways” and the inimitable Sursock Museum, a haven for contemporary art.