30th Street and Lafayette Rd is not the most glamorous intersection in town. In fact, on first glance, it looks like a preview of suburban sprawl. It is an area known as Flackville, and contains an old abandoned schoolhouse alongside nondescript strip malls, and pavement as far as the eye can see. The old neighborhood has surely seen better days.
Despite these and other problems, many locals know that it is a good place to find ethnic food. It’s amazing to me that the disparate cuisines of Guatemala, Egypt, and Vietnam have all found a place within a few feet of each other on the northeast corner of 30th and Lafayette. Together, they carve a niche, which stabilizes the corner, which in turn may help to stabilize the greater neighborhood. This was not a top-down, city-driven project. It appears that it occurred by luck, as well as affordable rent. Can a restaurant or 3 save a neighborhood? Probably not. However, at the very least, they can renew interest in the area as they draw in people from other parts of the city. And in the most optimistic scenario, a renewed bit of civic pride could even help raise funds to repair that beautiful abandoned school.