I live on Viaduct Road. It's one of the busiest roads in the city, with hoards of cars zooming relentlessly into the depths of town. It's a one-way rat race. Our road connects onto London Road, which, you guessed it, leads to London (well, to the A23) one way and stretches to the seafront the other.
For the entirety of my life, London Road has been the grotty part of Brighton. Grotty in the most middle class sense, of course. Charity shops, fast food restaurants - places yummy mummies turn their noses up at in their quests for overpriced children's toys & vegan treats. Who can forget the YouTube video of THAT mental woman wanting more butter on her corn on the cob in London Road's KFC? Now on a Friday and Saturday night there are bouncers on the doors of these not-so-fine dining establishments.
It can be said that because of this 'grottiness'/subsequent cheapness of the area, students, like myself, have flocked & settled here. Rent is kind of affordable (for Brighton), there's an Aldi on the corner, lots of cheap old man's pubs, a train station that's a pitstop on the way to Falmer (where Sussex & Brighton uni both have campuses) and it's on the bus route, too. It's pretty perfect for us.
However, the area is changing dramatically. I guess, in my opinion, it started with the success of the Hobgoblin, a pub who's renovation has led to an amass of students flooding through the doors and spending their loan money on jägerbombs, or sitting outside in the huge smoking area sucking on rollies and eating £7 burgers (that's a lot of dollar for meat and bread even if they are bloody tasty) from Troll's Pantry. To put it bluntly, it's the sort of place that's amazing only really when drunk. I popped in with my brother a few months ago for a quiet drink - I'm a creature of habit and apparently couldn't think of anywhere else in the vicinity. The Hobgoblin, through the non-bleary eyes of a sober person, is actually just really dark with ridiculously loud music. Sore eyes and throats ensued from squinting at each other through candle light and repeatedly shouting to be heard.
At the bottom of my road is a pub formerly named the Hydrant. In my first and second year of uni I used to go see my friends in bands play there all the time. We'd sip vodka & cokes in the beer-soaked garden, rushing inside when we could hear the sounds of electric guitars roll around the semi-empty room. It had a kind of downtrodden charm. Empty promises of student deals written in bold white typeface on the slightly dusty windows. In the next few days it will officially become the Hare and Hounds, after getting a massive refurb thanks to the Indigo Pub Company - the same people that own Hobgoblin and many other pubs scattered around Brighton & Hove. Adhering to the common trend of pubs incorporating fashionable food, the Hare and Hounds will house a La Choza kitchen. A long way from the derelict chic of the Hydrant.
Alcampo Lounge - a huge new 'vintage' styled cafe - now lies in the grave of Blockbusters. New shiny student accommodation is being built where the old Co-op used to be. The Level - formerly a bit of a crime hotspot - now holds a state-of-the-art park area and sparkly new cafe.
The modern is creeping in and taking over.
Of course it's great that money's being poured into this historically financially deficient area, but, at the same time, it runs the risk of becoming completely gentrified. Though it's amazing that most of the new developments are independent in nature, like mini-theatre/cafe Emporium, I fear what will happen to the residents who face being priced out of their homes and the shopkeepers who face being priced out of their truly independent businesses.
After all, with rumours of London Road becoming the new city centre, surely it won't be long before the charity shops and cheaper places are bought out by some of the same quintessentially kitsch but horribly expensive boutique stores that dominate the Laines?
The Old Market, previously a slightly shabby haggle-friendly marketplace, is being renovated into pristine shop spaces. It's even now got electric signs bearing it's name standing over both entrances.
I guess only time will tell. With the new development of luxury flats behind London Road leading to Brighton station, the complete revamp of York Place led by hip London-born burger chain MEATliquor, the installation art gallery ONCA, Hisbe - the ethical supermarket, and even more new businesses opening up shop, it looks set to be a very, very different place in the next few years.
In the future, students and those not so well-off may find themselves banished even further out of city limits, and maybe eventually out of the city altogether.
For now, though, let's drink lager in the old men's pubs and revel in London Road's grottiness, while it lasts.
Take a look at VisitLondonRoad for further information on the redevelopment