A Gay Boomtown Is More Mainstream And Less the Cliché
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Presented By: The Cabanas Guesthouse In Wilton Manors
By the mid-1990’s, this small, once comfortably middle-class city just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale had its share of woes. Crime, drugs and prostitution blighted various neighborhoods. The local Piggly Wiggly supermarket needed security guards before it shut down completely.
Then in 1997 George Kessinger converted a boarded-up bank in a derelict strip mall into a gay bar, and things began to change. Boards were removed from other storefronts in the mall, and more gay-oriented businesses opened — a bar, a coffee shop, two men’s clothing stores.
Soon homes that would not sell for $80,000 or $90,000 even in a frenzied market moved briskly for $300,000 to $400,000, as gay men and women priced out of South Beach, Key West and Victoria Park in Fort Lauderdale moved to the more affordable bungalows of Wilton Manors.
Now, the city is thriving. It has a higher proportion of same-sex households than any other city in the country except Provincetown, Mass., and Guerneville, Calif., in the Sonoma wine country, according to a new study of census data. to San Diego but couldn’t afford it.
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