"There were sections of town which had money - big money. Gated community type money. And now in 2017, that change seems to be accelerating."
No, this sign is not a fake. It is for a real island (we can see it easily from the road) and a real asking price ($1,500,000). And the island is much smaller than the lot I live on at home. I took a picture of this sign for a reason. Gentrification. How it is affecting northwest Florida the same way (maybe more so) it is affecting many areas in the rest of the country. I am not going to say if that is good or bad for a community. I am just going to say it exists and is becoming more pronounced.
I started coming down to northwest Florida in 1969. Even though the Viet Nam War was in full throttle at that time, Pensacola was still somewhat of a sleepy little Navy town. The Naval Air Station as well as the smaller bases close by were buzzing. But the town itself had a nice, quaint charm to it.
In fact, driving around town back then was interesting. I am sure there was some gentrification, but for the most part, housing was somewhat homogeneous. When I came back in 1971, not too much had changed. Then I came back a couple of times in the early 1980's on military leave, and I started to notice how the town was growing up. Even becoming ritzy in some locations.
Then five years ago my wife and I came down here on vacation. I hardly recognized parts of town. Pensacola Beach, which at one time was all sand and very few structures, now looked more like Coney Island. Plus there were sections of town which had money - big money. Gated community money. And now in 2017, that change seems to be accelerating.
Not to sound like Bernie Sanders, but gentrification is splitting many cities into two large separate classes and one diminishing class. Yes, that would be the middle class. Truthfully, the new houses we see going up around the area are beyond our budget - by a lot. And still mixed right in with them are 600 square foot, 50+ year old houses.
Locals we have talked to say more and more "northerners" are moving in - and bringing their money with them. Well, with no state tax in Florida and drop dead gorgeous weather, who can blame them?
My only concern is this. Pensacola in 1969 was a place in time. That charming southern city is now gone, replaced by a growing retirement city fueled in part by well healed northern transplants. But here, just like in Minneapolis, there are still people living paycheck to paycheck. And those 600 square foot houses are all they can, or maybe all they will ever be able to afford.