Douglas Young (York University)
Deborah Cowen (University of Toronto)
Will Poppe (York University)
Matthias Bernt (Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, Erkner)
Sigrun Kabisch (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research)
David Wilson (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Research Context, Methods and Goals:
This research project explores the processes and politics of suburban decline and renewal in two places – Toronto and Leipzig, Germany. It considers the actors and institutions involved in discourses of decline and renewal as well as policy formulation and implementation.
In Toronto, the focus is on post-war suburban districts. These case study areas present issues of social housing renewal, transit affordability, high rise residential tower renovation, and large scale private sector redevelopment. The Toronto based researchers (Young and Cowen) will work with community based groups such as East Scarborough Storefront and MCRI partner, Toronto Community Housing.
We ask if progressive suburban renewal is possible in an era of strategic place-based policies (which have replaced universalist urban and social policy strategies), and “post-political” crisis management of uneven development that attempts to avoid public political debate. Of particular interest is the extent to which residents of the areas studied are able to insert themselves into these processes. With the National Film Board of Canada (partner on the MCRI), we will consider the extent to which digital communication technologies are used in community development.
In Leipzig, the focus is on socialist era housing developments and the problem of a shrinking population. We will consider how suburban districts with high vacancy rates and the cultural burden of the turn away from socialist/modernist housing can be “renewed.” Decline and renewal in those districts will be contextualized with a consideration of citywide attempts in Leipzig at economic growth in post-Fordist, post-Socialist Germany. Young and Bernt will undertake this research.
A Tower Renewal website was launched to build on and share the research and ideas generated by a two-day conference held at York University on March 1, 2011. Laura Taylor (York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies) and Douglas Young (York University Department of Social Sciences, MCRI researcher) collaborated with a number of other researchers to host this conference on tower renewal and (sub)urban revitalization. Research is largely complete and will soon be submitted for publication.