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cultural space, urban redevelopment, urban heritage, cultural city planning


Urban redevelopment projects increasingly draw on culture as a tool for rejuvenating city spaces but, in doing so, can overemphasize the economic or exchange-value potential of a cultural space to the detriment of what was initially meaningful about a space—that which carries great cultural community wealth, use-value, or embodies a group’s intangible cultural heritage. Development and preservation interests illustrate this tension in terms of how cultural heritage— both tangible and intangible—is managed in the city. This article will turn to Toronto’s “Music City” strategy that is being deployed as part of a culture-focused urban redevelopment trend and Creative City planning initiative in order to examine how the modern urban intangible merits of city spaces are valuated and dealt with in light of the comparatively weak regard accorded to intangibility within the available heritage protection legal frameworks of Canada, Ontario, and, specifically, Toronto. The currently underdeveloped recognition for intangibility in the heritage protection equation not only fails to equally valuate non-dominant, unconventional, or alternative iterations of culture but also falls behind the key guiding documents in international law for the safeguarding and recognition of intangible cultural heritage as well as in accounting for intangibility in determining heritage value. Without diligent inclusive strategies to account for, and consult, the diverse spectrum of groups, cultures, and cultural spaces affected by urban heritage and cultural city planning processes, a city’s development initiatives risk counterproductively destroying the precise characteristics they are otherwise seeking to nourish, create, and, even, commodify.

"With its few remnants of Victorian and art-deco architecture overpowered by hastily assembled modern towers of concrete and glass, Toronto has developed a not-undeserved reputation for paving over its past and short-changing its future."

— Stuart Berman


This article was published in the International Journal of Cultural Property []. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Sara Gwendolyn Ross.

Publication Abbreviation

Intl J Cult Prop