Investment Not Displacement

Combating Gentrification Through Thoughtful Hospitality

Investment Not Displacement is a long-term initiative from Studio ATAO that aims to create a framework for hospitality businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods to organically integrate into their community and work together with their neighbors to combat displacement and funnel investment into their neighborhoods.

The Problem - Our Approach - Main Deliverables - Our Advisors - Get Involved

Watch the Campaign Video

Videography by Federica Nanfeng & Peter Cote. Editing by Film Snacks.

Special thanks to our advisors featured in this video, XXX

Initiative Overview


Gentrification is one of the most pressing issues in the U.S. today. All of us, no matter where we live and work, are all part of some aspect of the gentrification cycle - sometimes as both gentrifiers and those being pushed out by gentrification. Gentrification affects the lives of current community residents as well as the structure of our future neighborhoods. Nearly 20% of neighborhoods with lower incomes and home values have experienced gentrification since 2000. In LA country, places experiencing gentrification increased by 16% between 1990 and 2015. [Add NYC stat] 


Despite its immense influence on our lives, gentrification as a concept remains often misunderstood. Many myths remain about neighborhood improvement and systematic investment always leading to displacement, or that long-time residents want their neighborhoods to stay static. As a result, gentrification has become a term the media, private businesses, and even elected representatives will purposefully avoid - which gives it all the more power to disassemble communities in our collective silence.


Too often, proposals to combat gentrification do not involve those most impacted by the negative effects of the gentrification cycle. Especially in neighborhoods with majority-BIPOC communities already facing systematic barriers (e.g. language, discrimination, fear of ICE and retaliation). Unsurprisingly, solutions that are enacted without the participation of those affected lack the depth and thoughtfulness necessary to fully address the nuances of that particular community.

Additionally, little research has been done to explain the relationship between hospitality and gentrification, despite these businesses often being on the front lines of gentrification. Hospitality business owners are in a unique position to influence how private businesses can improve, instead of harm, the neighborhoods they operate in - but there are few publicly available resources that offer an adaptable framework for those who desire to participate in anti-gentrification, community-investment efforts.


As an organization, we reject the saviorism-based, paternalistic model of providing societal change solutions by calling upon the opinions of those already in positions of power. We strongly believe that those most qualified to address the current problems in society are those living through the effects of these issues. The core of our methodology is to center these individuals and work to implement their recommendations into organizational and policy-driven change.


Right now, we are conducting extensive interviews with community leaders across the country who have consistently championed for those historically ignored or silenced by those in power. Once we focus our research to two neighborhoods (one in NYC, one in LA), we will form cross-functional, small focus groups of community organizers, hospitality business owners and workers, neighborhood residents, developers, journalists, and policy makers that will meet regularly to discuss ways for private businesses to continually invest in, and work with, their neighbors and neighborhoods. (And yes, these folks will be compensated for their time!)


Our work as a community-based think tank is to slowly close this gap between those affected and those in power. Our goal with Investment Not Displacement is to create a new framework for hospitality businesses to engage with their community, ask for public accountability from the businesses utilizing this framework by taking part in the white paper process (see below), and strengthen the relationships between community members themselves and business owners through continued collaboration.


1. Educational content. Our Understanding...Gentrification primer will be a long-form, written piece of content that clearly explains the dynamics contributing to gentrification, with a focus on the hospitality industry. We believe educating the public on the intricacies of hospitality and gentrification is an important first step in engaging individuals to become more active and vocal about the issue within their own communities. 


You can read prior Understanding… pieces on topics such as Cultural Appropriation and Anti-Intellectualism in our Resources Library. 


2. Framework for hospitality businesses. Tentatively titled, How Hospitality Businesses Can Take a Community-Invested, Anti-Gentrification Stance in Their Neighborhoods, this toolkit for hospitality owners and professionals will be a hands-on guide with a spectrum of recommendations and proven strategies sourced from community members. We aim to cut through the jargon of academic papers as well as the generic recommendations in mainstream media to give detailed, actionable steps for hospitality businesses to commit to stopping displacement and sustainably support and improve their neighborhoods.


You can read our prior toolkits on disrupting tokenization and implementing equitable representation within food media in our Resources Library.


3. Detailed white papers. We will be following a hospitality business either in the process of opening, or newly opened, in both of our focus neighborhoods to provide a case study of how they approached neighborhood integration and coalition building. As an objective third party, we aim to provide recaps of real successes and obstacles faced by these business owners as they work to implement the recommendations from our toolkit in real time.


You can read our ongoing white papers on DEI progress within food media publications The Kitchn and Well+Good in our Resources Library. You can learn more about our specific approach to white papers here.


4. Community engagement spaces. We commit to continually creating spaces for feedback on our toolkit by hosting free, public Town Halls where anyone interested in being part of the conversation on gentrification and hospitality can comment on changes they want to see hospitality businesses undertake in the future.


You can read the findings and recap from our last Town Hall on food and beverage media here.


We are honored to be working with a group of experts and visionaries to review our processes and work so it fulfills our mission of enabling and empowering hospitality owners and professionals to integrate meaningfully into their neighborhoods and create coalitions for change.


Rae Gomes 


Reem Assil 


(Maybe) Javier Cabral

Get Involved




Sharing our campaign within your sphere of influence is completely free, and makes a huge impact! Download our Press Kit, visual assets, and social media ready captions here [link]!


Know of a mission-aligned business owner, community organizer, neighborhood leader, developer, journalist, or other forward thinkers working at the intersection of hospitality and gentrification? We would love to join forces with them! Our inbox [link] is always open for your suggestions.


Interested in implementing our framework within your own neighborhood or industry? Looking to work with us over the long-term to expand our research to new areas? Let’s chat [link to email] about ways we can collaborate for a better future for all.

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