There's an idea going around that "gentrification" imposes a monoculture on the neighborhoods it touches. In a whirlwind of destruction it sweeps away the indigenous diversity that existed since the dawn of time, tearing up unique old buildings, tossing aging deli owners as for away as Florida and scattering younger ones to the Five Towns. In its wake it leaves a sterile landscape of Vertical Suburbs, identical high-rises anchored by chains like 7-Eleven, the Gap and Trader Joe's!
What's that you say? The old buildings are recent and identical? They're already full of chain stores, clone restaurants and relatively newly arrived inhabitants, selling the same mass-produced stuff? The residents haven't moved out at a higher rate than any other time in the past fifty years? The new businesses aren't chains, and many of them sell handmade and secondhand items?
Well, it's still a monoculture! In a whirlwind of destruction it sweeps away the hopes of immigrants just beginning to put down roots with their first bodegas and Dunkin' Donuts franchises, swamping the old residents with hipsters from Ohio in identically unique flat caps and tattoos who produce a sterile landscape of coffee bars and vintage stores!
The great thing about this argument is that these elements can be combined in infinite ways to fit the situation. Any time there's a change you don't like, just highlight the diversity in the old and the similarity in the new. Bonus if you can sniff out any privilege the new people have over current residents!
Meanwhile, if you look at culture from a place of curiosity and not a place of fear, you find similarities and differences everywhere. Fads, formulas, common suppliers and the desire for a consistent customer experience are indeed forces that promote uniformity, but it is often a superficial uniformity. Uniformity is unsustainable, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics ensures that diversity always wins in the end. The Goths convert to Christianity, but then produce the Reformation. The Romans may have gotten the Iberians to speak Latin, but within a few centuries the Italians can't understand them any more.
When you get people from all over the country, and all over the world, coming together in one city or one neighborhood, of course you get some assimilation. But you also get a lot of continuity. A friend of mine is doing the artisanal hipster food thing, but she's actually using recipes and techniques passed on in her family for generations, knowledge that might have died out if she had taken a nice office job.
Yes, there is displacement, and it's not all good. There's a lot that we should be doing better. But we're not losing our diversity. The encroaching monoculture is a myth, a scary story that people tell their kids at bedtime. We're grown up now, and it's time to face facts. There is no monoculture.