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.