The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the current revival of interest in ‘community’ and ‘neighbourhood’ in much of the western academic and policy literature and to explore some of the different ways in which the idea of the neighbourhood continues to have resonance with the contemporary world. In other words, why should we care about neighbourhood and in what ways? The paper approaches the neighbourhood from different angles: as community, as commodity, as consumption niche and as context. The idea of the neighbourhood is a necessarily fluid concept and for the purposes of research its definition must vary according to the questions being addressed. The paper is concerned as much with the ways in which neighbourhoods are packaged and sold as with their social construction over time. It is also impossible to discuss neighbourhoods without some reference to debates around the concept of globalisation. Finally, there is the need to consider the continuing relevance of the neighbourhood cross culturally. There is a strong element of ethno or Eurocentrism in conceptions of the neighbourhood and its role in contemporary urban society. The literature on neighbourhood derives in the main from US or European studies.
Research Paper 204, May 2005, viii, 68 pp. The authors of this paper administered and analyzed a household survey to provide St. Christopher House (SCH) with a better understanding of the issues facing the residents they serve. This research was designed to address three main questions: How do the residents perceive the changes occurring within the neighbourhood? How are these changes affecting their way of life in terms of housing, commercial activity, new residents, and safety? And what can be done to respond to these perceived changes? This research allowed residents to voice their concerns and views about neighbourhood changes. These concerns and views will be translated into policy and planning recommendations for the city, as well as for SCH, the main social service provider in Toronto’s West End.
Research Paper 214, September 2008, viii, 72 pp. This study explores how commercial change contributes to wider processes of exclusion and gentrification, as well as the resources available to counter this trend. The researchers studied three commercial strips in Toronto’s downtown West-Central neighbourhoods (West Queen West, Roncesvalles Village, and Bloordale Village), representing different characteristics and stages of commercial gentrification. The report focuses on themes such as ownership structure in relation to local investment; the politics of strip “branding,” and the role of immigrant-owned businesses in building social cohesion; the role of Business Improvement Areas in promoting local development and fragmenting the urban landscape; and the challenges and opportunities for business finance. The report concludes with some recommendations for policy and community organizing.