Governing the commercial streets of the city: New terrains of disinvestment and gentrification in toronto's inner suburbs

Katharine N. Rankin, Heather Mclean

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the commercial shopping street as a site of racialized class struggle. The argument builds around the study of a disinvested inner-suburban neighbourhood in Toronto, which furnishes an ideal case through which to achieve the paper's objectives of, first, identifying commercial space as an important site of contestation over competing suburban futures; second, delineating how processes of racialization inform the economies of commercial gentrification and urban renewal; and third, highlighting the epistemological and theoretical insights that emerge when research is conducted collaboratively, among academic, community, and activist groupings. The paper argues that such commercial spaces play a key role in making the city accessible to vulnerable and marginalized groups. Two competing planning agendas centred on reordering commercial space, meanwhile, spell the almost-certain demise of such arrangements: a "real estate" vision featuring new condominium developments, and a new urbanist resistance favouring "green" and "creative" alternatives. Our engagements with precarious, predominantly immigrant-owned businesses and community-based researchers reveal the complicity of both modes of development planning with processes of displacement and structural racism. Specifying these dynamics as "racialized class projects" opens up space for intervention and organizing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-239
Number of pages24
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan. 2015


  • Commercial street
  • Community-based research
  • Critical urban studies
  • Gentrification
  • Neighbourhoods
  • Suburbs


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