It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the good, the bad and the ugly in the Hub real estate universe. Yep, it's time for the Second Annual Curbed Boston Awards!
This one's easy: the debate over Boston's hipness.
It all started with a Globe article in June about the new group, Future Boston Alliance, which declared Boston Mayor-for-Life Tom Menino an old fuddy-duddy who keeps kids' Frisbees when they land on his Hyde Park lawn, etc. There was something to the group's lament that the city was losing its young and its hip (and, you guessed it, it all came back to real estate): Poor development decisions over the last few decades have left Boston and much of the surrounding region with a woeful housing shortage, meaning that it's often too expensive for the young (never mind the hip) to buy or rent decent digs, so a lot of them leave.
Or do they? The population of 20-somethings jumped more than 20 percent in the 10 years up to 2010, and Boston has the largest proportion of people aged 20 to 34 of any major U.S. city. While the colleges and universities help explain a goodly portion of this proportion, the city still has a sizable and consistent number of young people regardless of the causes (though it can be debated whether this number is simply replenished every few years as the young do, indeed, get fed up with higher living costs and split). The Menino administration was happy to rest its counterargument that the city is plenty hip on statistics like this.
So what's the problem, exactly, re: hipness? As best we can tell, the feud between the Future Boston Alliance (and its allies) and the administration hinges on whether Boston is hip enough for tech professionals. But, as we and others pointed out in May, tech simply isn't as big an employer in the city as people (including City Hall) would have you believe. Pharma and biotech and old standbys like financial services are the city's big employers, and the people involved in those, while perfectly nice, may not be all that hip (and they don't care if they're not). Thus there seems little at the feud's core. (What did Henry Kissinger say about universities? Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small?)
An aside to the feud, too: the advocates for a hipper Boston have had a hard time actually defining what they mean by hip. Some say later last calls for Boston bars; others say more street fairs; still others talk of micro-apartments and bike lanes. Boston has the same last-call time (2 a.m.) as indisputably hip San Francisco; it has street fairs; and it's a pioneer in micro-apartments and bike lanes.
For being nearly impossible to define/explain, for being irrelevant to vast swathes of the city it purports to engage, and for yet occupying so many virtual and actual column inches, the debate over Boston's hipness wins the 2012 Curbed Boston Award for Silliest/Stupidest Feud.
· Can Boston Get Hip? [Globe]
· Why the Hub Housing Market Could Get Worse, Much Worse [Curbed Boston]
· Is Boston Too Boring For the Young and Hip? Like, Duh [Curbed Boston]
· Group Wanting to Make Boston Hip Loves Boston the Way It Is [Curbed Boston]