Comparing Gentrification in South Parkdale, Toronto and Lower Park Slope, New York City: A ‘North American’ Model of Neighbourhood Reinvestment?

This paper is an attempt to move on from the intractable theoretical divisions and overgeneralizations which have pervaded the gentrification literature for decades, and by doing so it offers a response to several calls for a ‘geography of gentrification’. This
takes the form of a comparative assessment of the gentrifying neighbourhoods of South Parkdale, Toronto, Canada and Lower Park Slope, New York City, USA. A central part of this research represents an engagement with two contrasting academic discourses on gentrification, the ‘emancipatory city’ (a Canadian construct) and the ‘revanchist city’ (an American construct), to examine how gentrification may or may not have changed since these discourses were produced and articulated.  The author combines narratives from in-depth interviews (with a particular focus on displaced tenants) with insights from action research and supplementary data from secondary sources, and elaborate the main similarities and differences in gentrification between these two contexts. In doing so, he demonstrates that gentrification is neither emancipatory nor revanchist in either case; while we can see crucial broad similarities in both the causes and effects of ‘post-recession’ gentrification, the process is also differentiated according to contextual factors, and these factors are illuminated and clarified by international comparison.. Furthermore, references to a ‘North American’ model of the process obscure some subtle local and national differences between the gentrification of individual neighbourhoods within that continent. The paper therefore demonstrates the need to exercise caution when referring to ‘North American gentrification’, especially as the geography of gentrification is only in its infancy.

Toronto’s South Parkdale Neighbourhood: A Brief History of Development, Disinvestment, and Gentrification

Research Bulletin 28, May 2005, 7 pages.  This brief history of a neighbourhood in Toronto just west of downtown describes the changes over time that have led to conflict between incoming gentrifiers and artists on one hand, and a long-standing population of poor and marginalized residents on the other. An area that was once an affluent enclave near the lake was disrupted by expressway building in 1950s, the deinstitutionalization of mental health patients in the 1970s, and by an influx of artists and middle-class homeowners beginning in the 1990sm. Although the area needs reinvestment, gentrification threatens the stability of the remaining.

Toronto’s West-Central Neighbourhoods: A Profile of the St. Christopher House Catchment Area

Research Bulletin 29, June 2005, 8 pages. This research bulletin is contains a demographic profile of the catchment area of St. Christopher House, a neighbourhood-based, multi-service, non-profit organization in Toronto’s west end. The catchment area includes more than 100,000 people. The profile was prepared using 2001 census data, and includes data on population, household size and type, education, income, employment, immigration, ethnicity, and language. The information is also organized according to eight distinct neighbourhoods within the area: Dufferin Grove, Little Portugal, Niagara, Palmerston – Little Italy, Roncesvalles, South Parkdale, and Trinity – Bellwoods.


Taking the Pulse: Gauging Neighbourhood Change in Toronto’s Downtown West End

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.