We got a lot of impassioned feedback on Victoria Bouloubasis’s story last week about The Lakewood, an upscale Durham restaurant that opened in a working-class neighborhood.
We’ll begin with Len Stanley, who writes: “I loved the article about The Lakewood. Having lived in Lakewood over nine years, it especially hit home. I was so delighted to see Bouloubasis use such an unorthodoxbut very creatively appropriatemethod of reviewing a restaurant: take some local neighborhood people and see what they think of it. My question becomes, why, with such an upscale customer base and such expensive food, does this restaurateur not locate on Ninth Street? Or why not downtown, amid the trendier, more upscale restaurants? Why displace the Hispanic community even further from the homes and heart of Durham? I suspect that [owner Phoebe Lawless] would not want to pay the prices of the places she has the luxury of affording. It’s not the cost of the food itself that I find objectionable. It’s that she has a choice that the community she’s not accommodating does not have. And she’s making them pay, not her.”
“This is a great article,” adds Scott Harmon. “It does not shy away from the complexities of these dilemmas, for which there are no easy answers. Every solution has certain costs and benefits, and this compels us to thoughtfully look at each situation and consider all of the consequences. This is a refreshing article to see in the INDY because it doesn’t package the whole issue into a tidy, incendiary tomato to throw. Rather, the article is willing to leave us uncomfortable, realizing that no one has a single, magic solution that solves all of the needs of community, progress, economics, and fairness. And kudos to Phoebe, who’s willing to work on the issues she can, even if she can’t solve all of them. I suspect that’s how meaningful change and community actually happens.”
Commenter thisaft, meanwhile, takes issue with our characterizing the Lakewood neighborhood as “traditionally Hispanic”: “I fully acknowledge that our food-obsessed town is often tripping over itself in congratulations for opening new restaurants (and hotels) that many people, myself included, can rarely afford to visit or even feel especially comfortable visiting. That being said, I’m really interested in how people are defining gentrification and assigning ‘tradition’ to neighborhoods in the city. I think many are heavily influenced by the ‘newness’ of so much of the population in this townespecially those who come and work in the (or create) media.
“They are defining tradition as anything that was here before them, and gentrification as anything new that happens after they moved here. It’s like everyone is living in their own microhistory and no one takes a moment to step back and look at the bigger picture and history of Durham. For instance: in the mid-1990s, people identifying as Hispanic made up only 1 percent of the population of the city, around two thousand people. So the idea that specific neighborhoods are ‘traditionally’ Hispanic is only accurate if ‘tradition’ began around twenty years ago.”
“As a Lakewood resident and somebody who grew up in a segregated city in the South, I’m grateful to be able to walk to The Lakewood, Azteca Grill, the delicious Tiendita Dos, and a Food Lion,” writes Durhamfam. “Diversity, not just new great restaurants, is what makes Durham special. It’s a dangerous assumption to lay claim to any one neighborhood for any one group of people or any one kind of food.”