Yuppie Urbanism: Biting the Hands that Serve Us

Yuppie [yuhp-ee] –noun

A (y)oung (u)rban (p)rofessional. A term used to describe someone who is young, possibly just out of college, and who has a high-paying job and an affluent lifestyle. Can now be used to describe any rich person who is not modest about their financial status (source)

Yuppie Urbanism

Photo Credit: Eva the Weaver on Flickr

Some of the most urban neighborhoods in the country are also the most expensive. This means that only a select cross-section of society—aka yuppies—can afford to live, or even hang out, there. This yuppie urbanism often a direct result of urban policy planning. In the quest for a perfect city, politicians and planners seek higher end condos, retail, restaurants and clubs and even employers. These yuppie friendly establishments are seen as bringing respectability (not to mention tax dollars).

A central feature of urbanism is that each neighborhood contain a variety of attractions and services that serve diverse niches. As I’ve written before, the magic is in the mix. Too often, in the quest for the ‘right type of people,’ planner and politicians forget this. In yuppie-centric urban neighborhoods, the residential units are often high-end condos and the retail is usually high-end boutiques. Moreover, little in these neighborhoods is more than a few years old. Thus, although the uses may seem mixed, the culture is as monolithic as a suburban gated community.

Moreover, yuppie urbanism ignores the very people who make it possible. These are the clerks who work in the boutiques; the entertainers who perform at the jazz and comedy clubs; the artists who create the work hanging in the galleries; and even the ‘fuppies’ (future yuppies) working their way through school at Starbucks. To keep a truly urban feel, cities need to find a way to attract and keep these service workers, artists, bohemians and students along with the yuppies.

This isn’t to say that yuppies do not have a place in cities. Gentrification is not always a bad thing. It can reflect the transformation of neglected places into vibrant and successful areas. The problem lies when cities and planners ONLY attract yuppies (and often discourage others socioeconomic groups) or favors multinational chains like Starbucks over local alternatives.  Remember that mixed use does not only refer to business types, but also the people who frequent them.

Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.

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