Who Cares About Neighbourhoods?

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.

New Urban Divides: How Economic, Social, and Demographic Trends are Creating New Sources of Urban Difference in Canada

Research Bulletin 33, February 2007, 7 pages.  More than 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas, occupying 5 percent of the nation’s land surface. Cities are now redefining and reshaping Canada. However, change is uneven within the country’s urban system, and the growth rates and characteristics of its member cities also vary widely. These trends in turn are creating new forms of difference or new divides among cities and regions, in economic, social, and political terms and at different spatial scales. This research bulletin surveys the trends affecting Canada’s cities and towns and the potential policy implications of the emerging urban divides among urban areas.


Liberty Village: The Makeover of Toronto’s King and Dufferin Area

Research Bulletin 32, January 2007, 7 pages. This short history of one of the neighbourhoods in west-central Toronto describes the stages of transformation of a formerly industrial area. The area first became a distinctive and diverse artists’ community on the margin of Toronto’s mainstream culture, but has more recently become an increasingly homogenized space that has been made safe, clean, and attractive for capital investment and new residents. The author argues that the gentrification of the area was municipally managed, as Toronto’s economic development corporation, in combination with Toronto Artscape, worked to attract investment to the area.