My hood is a peculiar place. Shepherd's Bush is right next to Notting Hill, disconnected from its posh neighbor by nothing more than a busy road and a quiet railroad. But the bridge and the roundabout are like a warp hole between worlds. The Bush is cheaper, noisier, livelier, dirtier, and more colorful. It is also perennially up-and-coming, the new Notting Hill-in-waiting, if you will.
At the moment, a huge shopping center, ostensibly Europe's largest within city limits, is in its final months of construction. A new library will be part of the complex. One tube stop will be newly built and another substantially refurbished and updated. A new station will be built for the aforementioned railroad.
To the uninitiated, this might suggest vigorous economic ascension with its inevitable side effects: Starbucksation of this melting pot of cultures and the displacement of immigrants, exiles and guest workers of limited financial means to make room for City bankers, executives and fancy high-street stores.
Even if such a scenario exists in the dreams of the developers or the back of heads of the borough council members, it is highly unlikely to unfold in such dramatic terms. A keen reading of history cruelly invalidates the most ambitious hopes. I came across this by accident.
Today in the Guardian, I read a richly illustrated article about London maps. One, a tube map from the year 1908, grabbed my attention like no other. It showed the Hammersmith and City Line stop that is being built (rebuilt, we learn) these days and a District Line stop where the railway station will go. The Bush was a happening place a hundred years ago, no wonder with the Olympic Stadium and the grounds of the grand Franco-English Exhibition right around the corner. One could even take the tube directly to South Kensington, perfect for those working at recently opened Imperial College.
I don't bemoan that the District Line won't be extended to Shepherd's Bush (though I'd like it). I just want to point out that development is a curious beast. You never know what's going to happen. But with the Bush and its traditional identity, my gut feeling is that change will move only shyly.