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 203, April 2005, vi, 26 pp. Urban theory has historically viewed ethnic commercial strips as a more-or-less organic extension of nearby ethnic residential enclaves. This paper argues that some of these areas function as a branding mechanism (intended or not) to produce nearby residential gentrification. Certain forms of ethnic identity attract affluent professionals looking for an alternative to suburban life. Some neighbourhood institutions have recognized this attraction and begun to manufacture a saleable form of ethnicity to tourists and prospective residents alike. This paper explores the influence of ethnic packaging on the process of gentrification in Toronto, using the examples of four ethnically defined business improvement areas (BIAs) – Little Italy, Greektown on the Danforth, Corso Italia, and the Gerrard India Bazaar.
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.
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.