The Politics of Place: Place‐making versus Densification in Toronto’s Tower Neighbourhoods


Toronto’s Tower Neighbourhood Renewal (TR) programme is a municipal government initiative tackling aging high-rise apartment building clusters in need of physical upgrades. One strategy for a more vibrant future for those clusters is densification or new infill housing. The main argument of the essay is that the unique urban structure of Toronto’s inner suburbs challenges the implementation of TR’s densification strategy. The proximity of many residents occupying privately owned single-family homes close to the tower neighbourhoods has implications for the governance of TR in Toronto. Having created place-frames firmly linked to their own identities as single-family homeowners, these residents reject an encroachment of the ‘urban’ (through higher residential densities) and of the ‘Other’ (through a potential increase in low-income, immigrant and visible minority tower renters). A 2011 design charrette in the Toronto neighbourhood of Weston serves as a case study, exemplifying the tensions between neighbourhood resident place-frames and the goals of the TR project. This essay is based on an analysis of public policy documents and public participation reports, as well as notes from direct observation during the Weston 2021 Design Charrette.