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Meet the Woman Driving Highland Park Gentrification By Convincing Landlords to Jack Up Rents

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In Highland Park, a "Going Out of Business" sign rapidly followed by the opening of a store selling stuff that only a handful of the neighbors could afford is one of the most visible signs of gentrification, but it's also the last step in a whole chain of events that aren't nearly as easy to see. For their excellent, in-depth investigation into the changing neighborhood, Marketplace talked to a commercial real estate agent named Nicole, who knows a lot about that less conspicuous part of tenant turnover—Nicole's job is make the change happen, first by finding commercial tenants who are paying relatively low rents, and then by kicking them out.

The professional euphemism for Nicole's job is "retenanting"; it's the practice of finding retail buildings where tenants pay low rents, getting landlords to boot those tenants, and then finding new tenants who will pay higher rates for the same spaces. In this scenario, the building owner becomes Nicole's client and she makes commission when new, fancy tenants move in. Neither Nicole nor Marketplace mention any locations where she has already retenanted, only that she's "staking out" the swap meet on Figueroa and the Frank's Camera next door. (Frank's Camera recently sold to people who are trying to get a bar and creative offices into the space, so looks like she's not going to be able to work her magic there.)

The job's not usually an easy one, as property owners can be hard to track down. But it's not too much of a problem if you've got acting chops: "What I typically do is I go in, I see a store that's like an old appliance store that's not going to last for another year or so, so I try to figure out how to get in touch with the owner – like say that I got hit in the back parking lot and I need to call insurance, so I need the property owner's information."

That's the most taxing part of the job, though, because once she tells retail landlords what they could be getting for their space, it's a done deal. "Going Out of Business" signs go up, tenants move out. Nicole herself acknowledges that this all sounds pretty bad, but seems to have made peace with the distasteful bits of the job: "I do feel bad. But it is a business. And when these people are paying under-market rents, and we have a client that owns the property, we have to look out for our client's best interest."
· York & Fig [Marketplace]
· Highland Park's Worst Gentrification Fears Are Coming True [Curbed LA]