The Gentrified App

The Gentrified App takes a critical look at the effects of gentrification by highlighting what is lost in the name of “progress” as rapidly escalating housing prices displace lower-income and communities of color.

MaryAnn Talavera


“Hidden gem,” “up-and-coming,” “revitalized, “reimagined,” the language of gentrification often paints lower income/working class neighborhoods as needing to be improved by new developments. The identity of neighborhoods is often erased through a process of rebranding. For example, Spanish Harlem becomes SpaHa, the South Bronx is transformed into SoBro, reinforcing the idea that these areas need to fundamentally change in order to become more valuable.

This project contains two main elements, an app and a commercial. Created in Unity, the Gentrified App prompts users to question what is lost in the name “improvements” brought on by rental increases, as well as real estate and commercial developments. Using augmented reality, the app replaces “Elsa’s,” a popular Uptown Manhattan Dominican restaurant with a 3D model of a high-rise building. The building includes a Starbucks on the ground floor.

The Gentrified App commercial follows a Brooklyn hipster exploring a new (to her) area of New York city. Guided by her Columbus Realty agent, the main character prances around the area, oblivious to the negative impact of gentrification on the residents and business around her. Using augmented reality and a bit of satire, this project asks how many local businesses will be replaced by bank chains, big box stores, and overpriced hipster restaurants? How can we fight back against the displacement of the communities that make the various neighborhoods of New York great?

IMA/ITP New York
In and Out of Reality: Integrative Mixed-Reality (XR) Studio