Del Pay, and the McCraftsman

I don’t think I am allowed to complain about gentrification any more, since I’m probably part of the problem. My husband makes fun of me tooling around in an electric BMW, Starbucks Iced Latte in hand. And he’s quick to point out I’ve walked our French bulldog wearing shorts and Italian leather loafers with no socks. And more than once he has caught me feigning exhaustion over a shopping trip to the grocery store that didn’t actually happen, because I ordered our groceries online.

That said, Del Ray is at a tipping point, and although we are going to directly benefit from it in that our home’s value is going to go up, there is a tiny part of me that winces at where the community is headed. Maybe because I’ve been here before.

I moved to Boston in 1990. I was 20 and, though I didn’t know it then, I would call the city home for the next decade. Back then, the original high-tech bubble was inflating in the form of software and Internet startups springing-up on Route 128 west of Boston. The influx of high-tech jobs brought a highly-skilled workforce that had a penchant for good coffee and completely-flipped brownstones. In just a few years, people were doubling and even tripling their real estate investments. This meant neighborhoods like the South End, once a haven for artists and a home to a healthy African-American and LGBTQ community, experienced a noticeable demographic shift. Rents skyrocketed. Small affordable mom-and-pop bars and restaurants gave way to glitzy high-end establishments with unpronounceable names. Artist studios were replaced with expensive galleries. In the end, people who couldn’t afford it, left, and people who could, stayed. It was that simple.

But it was the cultural homogeny that resulted that somehow felt like a loss, rather than a gain. There was a sameness to not only the place Boston became, but to the residents, too. This happened again and again: in South Boston, in Medford, in Quincy and Hull…communities that were once kind of eclectic or bucolic became precious and privileged. Clam chowder at a greasy spoon was replaced with lobster bisque. It was delicious, sure, but for many of us, it didn’t taste like Boston.

With Amazon’s H2Q coming to Crystal City, this is happening here too. Just a block away from us in either direction, in the span of just six months, we have seen four (perfectly good) houses torn completely down and replaced by what I call McCraftsmen’s. They all listed for around a million and a half dollars, with one that was custom built that I am sure is worth closer to two. They are aesthetically pleasing to look at, as most new shiny things are. But I can’t help but feel they look more like artistic renderings of houses, done by a computer. Conceptual versus cozy. They are somehow too perfect. Too precious. And too much like each other.

In the past year, we bid goodbye to a young couple we enjoyed having as neighbors, who were renting an apartment across the street. Del Ray had become too expensive, they said. They moved back to Maryland to live in his parents basement (now, with a new little baby boy, they are about to move back to a more affordable neighborhood in Alexandria to raise their family). And this weekend, we are bidding farewell to another couple in their 30s on our block, who found the real estate market here just out of reach. They’re off to Richmond.

I love it here. But I also worry we might lose that funky vibe that makes this community so unique. That once Amazon arrives, we truly will become Del Pay. In the meantime, we will do our part by not painting our house again this year. Our scraggly block of Bohemia will rock on. Faded, flawed and utterly beautiful.

True Myth is very apple-forward and almost juicy in its mouth feel. This wine is almost too easy to drink. Splashy and sassy, it demands attention in the form of additional pours. For those looking for sweeter wines with more oak and depth, True Myth is a pass. But it’s a perfectly good sidekick that won’t upstage whatever fare with which you serve it. B. $20

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