Incoherence and Tension in Culture‐Led Redevelopment


This article contributes to contemporary debates surrounding the outcome of culture‐led redevelopment by exploring the tensions that arise when a broad application of ‘culture’ is used to theme space. I take as my focus the Distillery District, a private sector redevelopment in the City of Toronto, Ontario that draws on the arts alongside industrial heritage to heighten consumption. The article is divided into two main sections. I begin with a review of Toronto’s shifting arts policies — from a focus on securing space for artistic production to a focus on arts consumption for interurban competition — to contextualize the planning framework underlying the redevelopment of the district. Second, I engage with how diverse and creative interruptions directed by the tenancy run against the unifying grain of the redevelopment process. While culture and creativity are drawn into a strategy of place‐making for the purpose of place distinction, an incongruous festival and events season, and the tokenistic inclusion of cultural producers to satisfy a public appetite for the creative process, complicate these descriptors of space. Ultimately, the representation of the Distillery as a premier centre for ‘arts, culture, and entertainment’ is unravelled by multimodal ways of seeing and experiencing culture and place.