B2: Suburban Redevelopment and Tower Renewal

Team Lead:

Douglas Young (York University)

Team Members:

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 & Goals:

This research project explored the processes and politics of suburban decline and renewal in two places – Toronto and Leipzig, Germany. It considered the actors and institutions involved in discourses of decline and renewal as well as policy formulation and implementation.

In Toronto, the focus was on post-war suburban districts.  These case study areas present issues on social housing renewal, transit affordability, high rise residential tower renovation, and large scale private sector redevelopment. The Toronto based researchers (Young and Cowen) worked with community based groups such as the East Scarborough Storefront and MCRI partner, Toronto Community Housing.

We asked 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 was the extent to which residents of the areas studied were able to insert themselves into these processes. With the National Film Board of Canada (partner on the MCRI), we considered the extent to which digital communication technologies are used in community development.

In Leipzig, the focus was 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 were contextualized with a consideration of citywide attempts in Leipzig at economic growth in post-Fordist, post-Socialist Germany. Young and Bernt undertook this research.

Research & Dissemination:

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.

In July 2017, the City of Toronto, in partnership with the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, United Way Toronto and York Region, and the MCRI: Global Suburbanisms Research Project at York University held an event at York University to publicize the new Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) zoning opportunity. The event, "Celebrating the Possibilities: Toronto's RAC Zoning", featured an exciting panel of possibilities of the Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) zoning.

Moderated by Graeme Stewart (Principal of ERA), the panel included Costanza Allevato (Director, Community Resources, Social Development, Finance & Administration Division, City of Toronto), Dr. Eileen de Villa (Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto), Jason Thorne (General Manager Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton), Gobal Mailwaganam (Managing Director, Municipal Affairs & Housing and Operations CAPREIT), Ayan Yusuf (Rexdale Community Health Centre) and Doug Saunders (author of Arrival Cities and regular contributor to the Globe and Mail).


Presentations & Publications:

Conference and Workshop Presentations

Publications and Other Dissemination