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'Converting' Space in Toronto: The Adaptive Reuse of the Former Centennial Japanese United Church to the “Church Lofts”

JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011 > 63-73
fig. 1. Map of West-Central toronto. | adapted froM Murdie, robert and Carlos teixeira, 2010 “the iMpaCt of GentrifiCation on ethniC
neiGhbourhoods in toronto: a Case study of little portuGal.”
urban studies,
June 8; doi:10.1177/0042098009360227.
The Adaptive Reuse of the Former Centennial
Japanese United Church to the “Church Lofts”1
On January 8, 2006, the Centennial
Japanese United Chur ch (CJUC ),
in West-Central Toronto, held it s final
service.2 After almost one hundred and
fif ty years of ministry, the church was
forced to amalgamate wit h another
nearby congregation and sell its aging
and expensive property. Notes from the
church’s newsletter s suggest that this
fate was of no su rpris e. 3 In the year s
leading up to the closure, the congre-
gation closely monitored a significant
decline in numbers. Indeed, as many of
its older members began to leave the
area for Toronto’s suburbs, a number of
its younger generation began to choose
new life paths. Larger demographic and
economic shif ts in the neighbourhood
began to play a part in the process as
well. Over the years, the increasing pres-
ence of Italian and Portuguese migrants
and, more recently, a surge of property
reinvestment and redevelopment have
significantly altered the sociocultural and
physical characteristics of the community.
Unable to continue supporting its build-
ing amidst the changes, the CJUC chose
to sell the church and move on. However,
a heritage designation establish ed in
2004 by the City of Toronto limited resale
options. In a short time the building was
sold to Doven co Corpo ra tion , a real
estate development company headed
by local architect Bernard Watt, for con-
version to upscale residential lofts. The
nature of this turnover was not out of
the ordinar y. For some time now, many
redundant churches in Toronto have been
bought by niche developers seeking to
convert historic properties into lucrative
condominiums and lofts (table 1). In sev-
eral older re sidential neighbourhoods
NICHOLAS LYNCH is a PhD candidate in the
Geography Department at the University of
British Columbia. His thesis research explores
the connections between adapted reuse,
gentrification, and sociocultural change in Toronto
(Ontario), and London (United Kingdom).
> Nicholas lyNch
64 JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
that skirt Toronto’s inner city, churches
like the CJUC have been similarly repur-
posed: in Greektown the former Riverdale
Presbyterian Church is now the “Glebe
Lofts”; in High Park the former Howard
Park Methodist Church is now the “Abbey
Lofts”; in the Junction the former Victoria
Presbyterian Church is now the “Victoria
Lofts”; and so on. No longer sustainable
as space s of wor ship, these and other
redundant church structures have found
a new value in the private real es tate
market , creating a relative ly new ter-
rain for what some urbanists have called
“loft-living.”4 In a slight divergence from
its original manifestation as the reuse of
abandoned industrial buildings, church-
style “loft-living” connects deeply with
the lifestyles, urban aesthetic, and pro-
gressive politics of the nation’s growing
urban elite. Instead of warehouses and
factories, the renovated church offers a
unique alternative for many of Toronto’s
inner-cit y sophisticates. Local heritage,
historic architecture, and an “old story”
are all functional aspects of the revalor-
ization of these conver ted places.
Th is ess ay trace s the ada pt ive re use
of the fo r m er C J UC to the Chu r ch
Lof ts —a transformation that has taken
this building from a religious place of
wor ship to a set of ups cale reside ntial
lof ts. My aim is to illuminate some of
the specific architectural processes and
socialcultural conditions that have made
the Church Lof ts p ossible. Following a
description of the histor y and original
construction of the building, I explore
its co ntempora r y r e nova tion in t o
up sca le lof t prope r ti es. A s thi s ca se
study shows, I arg ue that alon g with
the material transformation of the built
structure the adaptive reuse of redun-
dant churches often requires a concomi-
tant adaptation of symbolic elements.
That is, the creation of the Church Lofts
partly involves the reproduc tion and
promoti on of “authenticit y” throu gh
a recognizable yet uniqu e lof t-living
brand, a marketable ide ntity which is
constructed in the commodification of
the b uilding’s p reestablished material
heritage and by the adaptation of a dif-
fused religious heritage.
The origins of the former CJUC are found
in Toronto ’s late- ni ne te en th - ce ntur y
economic and immigrant boom. By the
1880s, much of the vacant lands on the
western periphery of the city were under
development to make way for the explod-
ing populations of industrial workers and
their families.5 In what is now considered
West-Central Toronto (fig. 1), new hous-
ing subdivisions help ed to create the
region’s emerging suburbs, areas that
were fur ther consolidated by the con-
tinuous expansion of commuter railway
and streetcar lines radiating from the
downtown core. A large number of the
new residents in the area were principally
immigrants from England, Scotland, and
Ireland, many of whom were also mem-
bers of various Prote st ant denomin a-
tions.6 By 1891, responding to increasing
demand, a small but flourishing congre-
gation of like- minded Methodists built
Former Church Loft Project Address Project Status
Summerhill Baptist Macpherson Church Lofts 12 Macpherson Ave. Completed, 1990
Dovercourt-St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church Hepbourne Hall 110 Hepbourne St. Completed, 1992
Eglinton United Church St. Georges on Sheldrake 65 Sheldrake Blvd. Completed, 2001
Riverdale Presbyterian Church The Glebe Lofts 660 Pape Rd. Completed, 2004
Howard Park United Church/Howard Park
Pentecostal Church The Abbey 384 Sunnyside Ave. Completed, 2007
Victoria Presbyterian Church Victoria Lofts 152 Annette St. Completed, 2010
The Centennial Japanese United Church The Church Lofts 701 Dovercourt Rd. Completed, 2010
St. Mary the Virgin/St. Cyprian Anglican Church The Westmoreland Lofts 40 Westmoreland Ave. In process
Seventh-Day Adventist Portuguese Church Private Development 512 College St. In process
Swanwick United Church The Swanwick 21 Swanwick Ave. In process
JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
a permanent worship space on the east
side of Dovercour t Road, naming it the
Centennial Methodist Church (CMC) to
commemorate the one hundredth anni-
versary of the death of Reverend John
Wesley. At a cost of about ten thousand
dollars, this modest church sat some
four hundred co ngregants and wa s a
solid brick structure with a stone base,
a pitched wooden roof, and two chim-
neys (fig. 2).7 In a short time, the church
became a central landmark in the rapidly
developing neighbourhood, attrac ting
new congregants from outlying areas and
new ministers to its pulpit—by 1904 the
church was lead by its seventh minister,
the Reverend Edwin A. Pearson (190 4-
190 6), fath er of the late Hono urable
Lester B. Pearson, former prime minister
of Canada.8
Although the rising popularity of the CMC
after the turn of the century was certainly
embraced by the ministry, the expanding
membership (over double it s intended
capacity) placed considerable pressure
on available space for both worship and
Sunday school activities. A s a result, by
the beginning of Reverend Pearson’s ten-
ure a new structure was commissioned to
meet the future needs. Designed by local
architect William Briggs, the new church
was placed directly in front of the original
structure, making use of the old sanctuary
space as a Sunday school. At that time,
the original church was almost entirely
conserved and the front porch was the
only feature removed in an effort to
maximize the footprint of the new build-
ing. Restricted by the reuse of the original
church, however, the new design was a
relatively unique wide square plan that, by
necessity, utilized almost three city lots.9
Briggs’s design celebrated CMC’s success
with a neo -Gothic exter io r complete
with front double towers, pointed arch
entrances, extended stone courses, and
elabora te Tudor-arched stained-gla ss
windows (fig. 3). Likewise, the interior
spaces continued the motif. With seating
up to one thousand two hundred per-
sons, a Tiffany stained-glass skylight, full
choir seating with organ, the main sanc-
tuar y space was a central focus for the
new development. It is important to note
here that the heritage designation by the
City of Toronto only classified the main
compo nents of the exterior struc tu re
and includes the northern, southern, and
western walls (the western wall fronting
on Dovercourt Road), and the roof of the
1906 building.10
Wi th the merg er of Canada’s main -
line Protestant denominations in 1925
and the creation of the United Church
of Canada, many landmark Protestant
churches in Toronto, including the CMC,
received a large number of congregants
in response to amalgamation efforts.11
Once again, in an attempt to keep up
with expanding demands and a record-
high membership (over 1700 congregants
by 1930), the church, then dubbed the
Centennial United Church (CUC), redevel-
oped the original rear worship space in
its entirety.12 In 1927, a large two-storey
rear annex was built to accommodate
multiple uses, including providing larger
Sunday school space and new capacity
for both administrative and commun-
it y funct ions (offices, change rooms,
and even a basement basketball cour t)
(fig. 4).13 Remarkably, the original front
wall of the 1891 church survived the rear
annex development. Squashed between
the front annex wall and the rear 1906
church wall, remnants of the 1891 church,
including brick elements such as original
fig. 2 . CMC, exterior, C1906. | united ChurCh arChives. fig. 3 . CJuC, sCheMatiC, 1906. | benJaMin Watt-Meyer, 2009.
66 JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
window openings, remained intac t and
are currentl y restored feature s in th e
present loft conversion.14
Th e p ost war p eriod mar ke d a t ur n -
ing point for the CUC. By the 1950s, a
consid erable drop in membership and
support placed new pressure s on the
ministry and on the viability of the con-
gregation. As was common in this period
of decline, the CUC decided to share their
worship space with the nearby Toronto
Japane se United Church.15 In 1958, a
new chap el space was cons tructed for
th e J apa nes e N ise i co ngr ega tio n in
the rear annex . Designed by Canadian
architect Raymond Moriyama, the chapel
provided the primarily English-speaking
congregation a formal worship space of
their own. Moreover, the chapel was a
unique architectural feature and, being
one of Moriyama’s early projects, it was
an impor tant piece which reflected the
fusion of modern aesthetic with trad -
itional ecclesiastical designs. In particu-
lar, while the chapel was adorned with
curved ceilings and doorways, an elabor-
ate stained-glass skylight, and sat one
hundred and eighty people on premium
ash pews, it was further contextualized,
according to designer Benjamin Wat t-
Meyer, with catacomb-like spaces that
were inspired by the 1950s “spacecraft”
aesthetic16 (fig. 5).
From the 1960 s onward , the su stai n-
ability of the CUC was increasingly dif-
ficult to manage. Replacing the aging
congregations and financing the church
pro pert y wa s a losing battle. With it s
“golden years” behind, the CUC made
what was to become a last amalgama-
tion effort. In 1986, an official merger
was made bet we en th e CUC and the
Toronto Japanese United Church—Nisei
congregation. The newly amalgamated
Ce nte nnial Jap ane se Un ited Ch urch
(CJUC) then spent the next twenty years
managing the slowly shrinking but still
dedicated parish. Significant changes in
the character of the local communities,
specifically the villages known officially
as Lit tle Italy” and “Lit tle Portugal,”
co ntinu ally ch allen ged the ch ur ch’s
future. By the late 1960 s, promin en t
Italian and Portuguese diaspora s had
been firmly established in West-Central
Tor onto and the divers ify ing s ocial,
cultural, and material needs of the com-
munity were increasingly reflected in the
urban landscape.17
Over time, the CJUC became dependent
on farther-flung congregants, of ten as
far as the Mississauga suburbs, and by
necessity transformed into a commuter
church— an of te n prec ariou s position
for relatively smaller worship places. By
the turn of the millennium, the physical
dist ance between th e church and its
congregants and the cultural distance
between the church and the local com-
munity were increasingly difficult condi-
tions to manage. As geographers Robert
Murdie and Carlos Teixeira explain, a set
of countervailing trends accelerated the
sociocultural nature of much of Wes t-
Central Toronto.18 In particular, a marked
out-migration of established Portuguese
residents for the northwestern suburbs
has been partly replaced by a relatively
large group of immigrants and refugees
from eas tern and southern Asia, Latin
America, and Africa. Furthermore, they
also point out that in the last decade an
increasing number of middle-class profes-
sionals, the classic gentrifiers, have also
fig. 4 . CJuC, sCheMatiC, 1927. | benJaMin Watt-Meyer, 2009. fig. 5. CJuC, sCheMatiC, 1958. | benJaMin Watt-Meyer, 2009.
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Nicholas lyNch >
targeted the area in search of relatively
low-cost housing with renovation poten-
tial in close proximity to the downtown
core. Although originally attracted to
the older Victorian houses in the eastern
half of the region, over the years a steady
progression of renovation, revitalization,
and, ultimately, gentrification has slowly
migrated westward. Partly responding
to that trend, a variety of reuse projects
have converted differing building types
for upscale residential purposes, including
the adaptive reuse of former Dovercourt–
St Paul’s Presbyterian Church (circa 1884),
a project not one block from the CJUC
(fig. 6). Additionally, patterns of com -
mercial change have also been noted as
a significant part of the transformations
in the area.19 In particular, the process
of retail gentrification has expanded in
recent years as numerous restaurants and
boutiques catering to more affluent con-
sumers have been slowly displacing older
establishments that traditionally provided
more affordable products and services to
low-income residents. In Little Italy and
Little Portugal, for instance, an upscal-
ing of ethnic restaurants and boutiques,
which were partly infl ue nc ed by the
activities of local business improvement
associations (BIAs), has dramatically trans-
formed both the commercial and social
culture of the area, enticing higher-order
consumption and patterns of gentrifica-
tion now common in other ethnic strips
in the city.20
In face of these dif ficult tr an si tions,
the church held its last service at 701
Dovercour t Road in early 2006. Instead
of continuing on, the congregation finally
opted to s ell the building to architec t
and developer Bernard Watt of Dovenco
Corporation and amalgamate with the
Lansing United Church in North Toronto.
The remaking of the former CJUC to the
“Church Lofts” is firmly rooted in the phe-
nomena now commonly known as “loft-
living.” Although the building’s new name
certainly points to that fact, the successful
transformation of this redundant church
to an upscale residential product actually
belies a careful connection to an urban
form more than forty years in the making.
In particular, loft-living was first attrib-
uted to the revitalization of New York’s
SoHo (South of Houston) district in the
1970s, and later used to describe similar
transformations in other former industrial
zones in many North-American, Western
European, and Australian cities.21 In New
York, London, Toronto, and other urban
centres, the steady loss of manufacturing
and production sectors, and the substan-
tial growth of service-based industries, a
process referred to as “post-industrializa-
tion,” caused dramatic shifts in the func-
tion of economies, societies, and their
various land- use formations. Although
certainly not an even process across all
urban contexts, commentators like Hank
Savitch explain that post-industrialization
has some widespread consequences:
[P]os t-indust ria lism [ …] entail[s] social
upheaval: factories are dismantled, wharves
an d war ehou se s are a ban don ed, and
wor king-class neighb our hoods disappea r.
Somet ime s there is rep lac ement o f one
physical f orm by another— the gr ow th of
office towers and lux ury high rises or the
refurbishing of old waterfr onts. Cafes and
boutiques arise to feed and clothe the new
fig. 6 . southern elevation of the forMer doverCourt–st. paul’s presbyterian
ChurCh (C1884), noW the “hepbourne hall lofts.” | niCholas lynCh, 2009.
fig. 7. the ChurCh lofts under ConstruCtion. | niCholas lynCh, 2009.
68 JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
classes. At other times the transformation
is truncated and nothing but an empty shell
is left behind.22
In many cases, these empty shells were
eventually re-colonized as demand and
property prices rose in the core areas of
central cities. Replacing the industrial
workers in the abandoned factories and
warehouses was a sizable group of art-
ists seeking large and cheap spaces that
would accommodate not only work but
also housing. In a short time, savvy urban-
ites looking for unique places to live in the
city followed the artists’ path, displacing
many of them in their wake.23 By appro-
priating the gritty industrial aesthetic and
renovating the spaces to suit more mid-
dle-class comforts, a popularized loft-liv-
ing lifestyle was quick to take off. Indeed,
it be came incr easingly clear that the
economic opportunities of reusing aban-
doned factory sites as residential spaces
dovetailed with a cultural revalorization
of urbanity in general: an emergent pre-
occupation by elite groups with an indus-
trial architecture and heritage aesthetic;
a new focus on renewing central urban
spaces for accessible consumption, lei-
sure, and sociabilit y; and a search fo r
new and unique platforms for producing
and displaying contemporary lifestyles. In
Montreal and Toronto, for instance, the
construction of loft landscapes and mar-
kets has been instrumental in creating dis-
tinct cultural enclaves and tourist-historic
precincts that foster diverse city spaces
that attract tourist dollars, add a “sense
of place” to the urban fabric, and entice
a growing class of creative professionals
to urban centres.24 These landscapes have
not only helped to shape the postindus-
trial city, but they have also made possible
an emergent and expeditionary culture
of adaptive reuse that now includes
buildings of a post-institutional nature.
Redundant schools, churches, municipal
buildings, and movie theatres top the
list as “hot-spots” for new loft develop-
ment. As municipalities, civil corporations,
and religious groups, to name a few, are
forced to off-load costly post-institutional
buildings and recuperate financial losses
in the face of economic restructuring and
sociocultural changes like the decline of
par ticipation in mainline religions, the
private real estate market has become
an increasingly viable option for resale.
Moreover, as many inner-city industrial
zones are exhausted through popular
redevelopment initiatives and as waning
interest in what some call the ubiquitous
“cookie-cutter condos” continues, the
“loft-living” aesthetic increasingly shifts
to this new terrain.
Redundant churches, perhaps more than
any ot her propert y type, represent a
built form loaded with commodifiable
historic and symbolic values. Together,
ornate architectural designs, historic con-
nections with the local community, and
wider cultural connections to a religious
past offer discerning consumers a housing
commodity entirely different from others.
The Church Lofts, like similar projects of
its kind, are made marketable not only
by connecting thes e unique elem ents
with the recognizable postindustrial loft
aesthetic, but also through the construc-
tion of a novel identity or brand linked
to a repackaged narrative of heritage,
iconography, and neighbourhood. Thus
develop ers, in concert with architec ts ,
public rela tions firms, and marketing
and real estate agents, repolish churches
with a contemporary patina to res tore
and emphasize not merely the economic
capital of the building but also its new
cultural capital.
Material Transformations
A significant number of physical altera-
tions were necessary to properly con-
vert the CJUC into an upscale residential
property (fig. 7). As with mo st similar
projects, the conversion process involved
a considerable amount of demolition,
restoration, an d creative reconfigura -
tion. From the outset, the design of the
project necessarily took its lead from the
fig. 8 . the ChurCh lofts, Cross seCtion West/east lookinG north. | bernard Watt, arChiteCt, 2009.
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Nicholas lyNch >
existing heritage designated envelope.
As opp osed to oth er conversions that
need to consider more complex architec-
tural styles (e.g. cruciform), the square
form of William Briggs’s 1906 structure
offered some design simplicity. The gen-
eral layout of the twenty-eight individual
and unique loft units follows the original
square plan, cutting the building into
three main floors with the basement as an
underground parking facility (including
three interior parking spaces with direct
private access to individual units) and a
multi-level atrium in the centre (fig. 8).
Well before construction, however, a
large amount of the church int er io r
that was left behind was necessarily dis-
assembled and removed. Pews both from
the main sanctuary and the Moriyama
Chapel, nume ro us stained-gla ss win-
dows, hanging lamps, and organ pipes,
among other items, were either sent to
storage, sold to collectors, or incorpor-
ated into the conversion process.25 Many
of the remaining elements in the main
sanctuary and rear annex, however, were
destroyed to make way for new interior
structures. Large interior features such
as the main sanctuary floor, balcony and
stage, and the rear annex roof were even-
tually demolished, leaving the building’s
heritage designated “shell”—main walls,
front towers, and steel truss roof—intact.
A lengthy and delicate process of restor-
ing many of the building’s original herit-
age features followed the building’s
demolition. As with most church conver-
sions, the cos tly off-site repair of num-
erous original stained -gla ss wind ows
was required. The large Tudor-arched
windows, in particular, represented an
important part of this restoration process
as these features not only help to reestab-
lish the building’s imposing presence on
the streetscape, but are also integral to
the interior design of several of the loft
units (fig. 9). Furthermore, several win-
dows along the front double towers were
repositioned and on the primary walls the
restoration of various brickwork elements
was needed. Aged and damaged brick
tuck pointing was replaced while exposed
brickwork was sandblasted. And, across
the entire structure, the roof membrane
and shingles were replaced.26
As would be expected, the renovation of
the interior structure was substantial in
order to create a functional residential
building. In the main sanctuary, large
steel columns, many of which were sal-
vaged and repurposed from the demoli-
tion process, were used for constructing
new floors and walls. On the front of the
building, several smaller balconies were
tied into the front facing suites and third
floor units were also given roof access.
Renovations to the rear annex were also
sig nificant. In pa rticular, two setback
floors above the annex roof were con-
structed to elevate the third floor and cre-
ate an additional fourth level for several
two-storey features (fig. 10).
One of the main design elements of the
Church Lofts is the large atrium fash -
ioned from the former sanctuary space.
Sp an ni ng the three main flo ors and
topped by the restored Tiffany skylight,
fig. 9. the ChurCh lofts, Cross seCtion north/south
lookinG West. | bernard Watt, arChiteCt, 2009.
fig. 10. the ChurCh lofts, sCheMatiC, 2009. | benJaMin Watt-Meyer, 2009.
70 JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
the atrium offers a func tional and aes-
thetic backbone to the building’s interior
(fig. 11). This open plan connects the vari-
ous public spaces and corridors, projects
visual access to the multiple layers of the
building, and of fer s cascading natural
light into the centre space. In general,
the atrium elicits a link with the historic
envelope by connec ting the heritage
details visible on the exterior with a sense
of communal space in the interior, a pub-
lic space apart from the private spaces of
the loft units.
The loft s them selve s radiate outwa rd
from the central atria. All of the twenty-
ei ght uni ts are of a uni que design .
Ranging both in one and two storeys and
in size from approximately six hundred to
one thousand five hundred square feet,
each unit accommodates and incorpor-
ates the built envelope and the public
spaces of the structure.27 Their interior
elements include a combination of herit-
age or antique-style finishes with contem-
porary features (fig. 12). Exposed textures
like wood beams, original steel trusses,
and brickwork, as well as reused pews (as
windowsill caps, stairs, and treads) and
period light fixtures make up part of the
historic aesthetic. For the modern finish
the units offer, for instance, top-of-the-
line stainless steel products, Italianate
kitchens , and cont em pora ry cus to m-
designed bathroom fixtures.
Symbolic Transformations
Integ ral to the trans formation of the
CJUC to the Chu rch Lof ts is an adapt-
ive reuse of the symbolic economy of
the building and its religious heritage.
Accompanying the material renovations
of the buildin g, there fore, is a set of
complex aesthe tic discour ses that are
necessarily reworked not only to sell the
building as a upscale residential property
in a competitive real estate market, but
also, interlinked, as a means to build a
wider social acceptance for its new func-
tion—from a space of worship to a space
of modern domesticity.
Thi s pr oces s is most con s pic u ous l y
developed in the branding strategie s
designed by the developer in concert with
a media and public relations consultant
(The Walsh Group) and real estate broker
(Brad J. Lamb Reality Inc.). Branding is a
pervasive marketing practice that involves
not just advertising in the classic sense,
but also includes the production of a new,
often coherent, “identity” of a product
or place a complex process that uses
slogans, icons, architecture, and design
as a means to both promote and legitim-
ize a new or “renewed” commodity. In
this way, the adaptive reuse of the Church
Lofts involves several strategic branding
processes, three of which are important
here: the repackaging of an architectural
iconography; the “renaming” of both the
building and the individual loft units; and
the “re-narrativization” of the building in
the contemporary urban landscape.
A large part of the popularity of urban
lofts, whether of a postindustrial or post-
institutional nature, concerns the quality
fig. 11. the ChurCh lofts, Central atriuM
(unfinished). | benJaMin Watt-Meyer, 2009.
fig. 12. the ChurCh lofts, finished interiors. | benJaMin Watt-Meyer, 2009.
JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
of their unique heritage aesthetic, the
representation of a merged space and
time. Along these lines, central to the res-
toration of the exterior and the design of
the twenty-eight “premium” units in the
Church Lofts, is an attempt to reconstruct
a sense of “authenticity” and to create
domestic spaces that are accented with
hints of a “meaningful” historic pa st .
This is made possible primarily through
the produc tion of a material antinomy, a
strategic juxtaposition of the old (or the
seemingly old) with the new, through-
out the building. The raw and exposed
ele ments associated with the church’s
past, the interior stone walls and stained-
glass windows, and the reused interior
features, like period lighting and repur-
posed pews, are all unique architectural
icon ography tha t the develope r ha s
integrated in order to weave an historic
narrative in which owner s can partici-
pate, a “stage” that displays a level of
authentic sophistication that is simply not
possible in many new residential spaces.
Indeed, the repackaging of the church’s
ico nography distances the conversion
both from the ubiquit y of the “box in
the s kyconstructions in the adjacent
dow ntown core and the “new” (read:
homogenous) communities in the city’s
suburbs. This aesthetic differentiation
highlights an architectural individualit y
that creates a “sense of place” ins tead
of space, making possible a transfer of
cultural capital from the building to the
owner.28 In addition, in much the same
way that exposed industrial piping and
preformed concrete walls and floors are
restaged in renovated industrial lofts, the
Church Lofts strip back and repackage
“original” features to act as an aesthetic
frame for the global menu of modern
domestic products on offer in the interior
spaces. That is, importantly, an attempt
to satisf y con sumers mu ltiple, simul-
taneous, and rather paradoxical desires
for the old and the new, the traditional
and the technological, the primitive and
the progressive.
The symbolic and iconographic adapta-
tion of the Church Lofts is also made pos-
sible by the practice of renaming. To be
sure, the renaming of this building is not
new. As illustrated above, the building
was given several dif ferent names dur-
ing its time as a space of worship, names
that were intended to communicate and
identify its specific position within the
religious and local urban communities.
Rather than a trivial detail, therefore,
naming is riddled with meaning and is
pivotal in constructing identity—not only
to signify the expected use of a building
but also to act as a marker for the build-
ing’s expected users.29 The adaptive reuse
of a church represents a specific need
for renaming since the restoration of the
exterior architectural envelope conserves
the building’s original iconography—sug-
gesting that this is, still, a church. In this
case, renaming becomes part and parcel
of efforts to broadcast its new use for
new users. Originally, the developer and
marketing team named the project simply
“The Church”—a direct effort at creating
a sense of cache by clearly linking to its
historic use.30 However, such an explicit
linkage did not differentiate the project
as a residential building and perhaps,
obviously, early feedback from consum-
ers was decidedly negative as many were
confus ed about its supposed use. The
“loft” prefix was added sometime later
to more clearly identify the project as a
loft-type residential space and to help
it fit within the context of the housing
market. The naming process, however,
does not end there. Indeed, intended as
a coherent discourse, all of the loft units
are given specific dis tinguishing names
based upon the townships of promin-
ent churches found throu ghout areas
of England —from the Scotti sh border
to the English Channel. Thus, unit 109 is
named “The Dover” in reference to the
Church of St. Mary-in-Castro; unit 206 is
named “The Ovingham” in reference to
the St. Mary the Virgin’s Church; unit 301
is named “The Clapham” in reference to
the Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury;
and so on. These place names link a dif-
fused religious affiliation to the project as
they commodify a distant religious past
and connect to a religious architec tural
history, a heritage of seemingly quality
craftsmanship. Moreover, the choice to
reference the buildin g’s older Anglo-
Saxon heritage, as opposed to a more
recent Japanese Canadian heritage, is
telling: an authorized and romanticized
image of England —its countr yside, its
heritage, its built form—is marketable.
That is, this repackaged heritage reflects
more closely the aesthetic sensibilities of
the common upscale housing buyers—
those of the predominantl y afflu ent
upper- and-middle class Anglo groups.
Unlike renaming, the brandi ng strat-
egy of “re-narra tivizing” focuses less
on highlighting the aesthetic and iconic
qualities of the building and more on
promoting its ac ce ssib ilit y to central
“consumption scapes” in the area. As
mentioned above, the pace of commer-
cial change in West-Central Toronto has
been relatively rapid in the last decade
as it has followed closely with the trends
in gentrification. The gentrifying villa-
ges of Lit tle Italy and Little Portugal,
bu t als o Ron ce s va ll es, Quee n Wes t ,
and Bloo rdale, all contai n expandin g
retail districts , many of which are now
implicated in the process referred to as
“boutiquification” that has been char-
acteristic of postindustrial inner-cities.31
As part of the brochure promotions for
the Church Lof ts, for instance, the mar-
keting narratives make explicit linkages
to the new retail and food landscapes
that have been increasingly established
in these changing neighbourhoods:
72 JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
The Church [
] is surrounded by a rich tap-
estry of cultur e, fashion, style and design
[…] College Street and Little It aly off er a
great selection of diverse restaurants, bis-
tros, and trendy spots to enjoy […] Stroll
down Bloor West and experience a diverse
collection of places sprinkled onto an urban
lan dsc ape o f modern ideas and c reati ve
ene rgy—t he downtow n cor e is just min-
utes away.32
Ac ros s ma ny of Toro nto ’s ne w an d
renewed communities, this similar “life-
style” pitch circulates around the notions
of accessibility and centrality. The calcu-
lated deployment of “the centre” as a
key theme pervades marketing materials
and development slogans and is peren-
nially portrayed as a “hub” of quality
urban life; shopping, viewing, playing,
and living is all at tainable, for some, by
being in or close to the centre. Thus at
the same time as the Church Lofts sell a
reserved religious heritage in the making
of a residential space, they also connect to
an accessible vibrancy and diversity that
many consumers seek in a modern city.
But access to the “centre” is not all
that is offered here. The promotional
website, for example, used highlighted
neighbourhood maps and illus trated
descriptions of cosmopolitan boutiques
and restaurants to not only help new
owners navigate the neighbourhood, but
also to renarrate the area as a space of
legitimate cultural and economic revital-
ization (fig. 13).33 Importantly, connecting
to this milieu of upscale shopping and cui-
sine, essential to maintaining a modern
urban lifestyle, adds an additional layer
of distinction and value to the Church
Lofts as it represents a stylized and con-
vivial public space close to the “authentic”
and “private” spaces of the lofts units.
Moreover, the Church Loft brand is con-
structed with a specific local identity that
incorporates and sells an urban liveabil-
ity—a lifestyle imprinted with affluence,
cosmopolitanism, and most impor tantly
a history of a bygone culture.
The transformation of the former CJUC
to the Church Lofts is now complete. By
the winter of 2009-2010, the doors to 701
Dovercourt Road were reopened—not to
a crowd of returning parishioners but to a
group of new homeowners. Selling rather
quickly, even amidst a remarkably diffi-
cult recession, the Church Lofts have been
hailed by many as a resounding success.
Their popularity is likely attributable, in
part, to the seemingly unstoppable real
estate demands in Toronto—a city often
proclaimed as among North-America’s
largest condo markets.34 This loft conver-
sion, however, also speaks to a consistent
appetite in the consumer housing mar-
ket for something altogether new or, we
should say, “old but new.” Indeed, similar
to postindustrial factories that have been
recycled to meet the demands of afflu-
ent urbanites in search of cool and unique
places to live, repurposed churches like
the former CJUC forward architectural
and cultural heritage as intrinsic and
unique amenities in the loft product .
But post-institutional projects like these
diverge from the common factory-loft
landscapes that dot countless urban cen-
tres; instead of reusing the built legacies
of past economies and industries, church-
lofts reflect specific ecclesial architectural
styles and commodified elements of reli-
gious heritage. In this way, converting the
former CJUC to lofts presented enormous
challenges ranging from the structural to
the symbolic. Indeed, along with the care-
ful renovation and preservation of the
building’s physical envelope, the conver-
sion has involved the repackaging of reli-
gious history as a suitable and marketable
storyline for new discerning users.
Importantly, this case study demonstrates
that material renovations to historic post-
institutional properties like churches are
but one element in the reuse process .
As more redundant churches are becom-
ing lof t spaces in the city of Toronto,
develo pers and architec ts are increas-
ingly involved in reconstruc ting urban
heritage not only through rep olishing
the character-defining elements of the
built form, but also through producing
specific na rrati ves of place and sp ace
that help to legitimize and sell a unique
and interesting domesticity.
fig. 13. the ChurCh lofts, internet MarketinG. | dovenCo inC.
JSSAC | JSÉAC 36 > No 1 > 2011
Nicholas lyNch >
1. This a rticle pre sen ts work f rom my curren t
doctoral research entitled: Altared Places: The
Reuse of Redundant Churches as “Loft-Living”
in the Post-Ind ustr ial City, at the University
of British Columbia. T his p aper wou ld not
have been possible withou t the unwavering
guidance of my thesis committee comprised
of p rofes sors David Ley, Elvin W yly, Thomas
Hut ton, and Deborah Leslie. I would like to
espe cially thank architect Bernard Wat t and
Benjamin Watt-Meyer for sharing their exper-
tise, experiences, and knowledge of the his-
tory of the CMC, the CJUC, and the production
of the Church Lof ts.
2. The former CJUC building, now Church Lofts,
is locat ed a t 701 Dove rcour t Road, south of
Bloor Street in Toronto, Ontario.
3. Livey, Margaret, 1986, “The Centennial United
Chu rch H istor y – 1891-198 6,” unpu bli she d
booklet prepared for the Centennial Japanese
United Church, available online: [http://ww w.
cju /hist or y/ind ex. html], las t acce sse d
August 31, 2010.
4. Zukin, Sharon, 1982, Loft Liv ing: Culture and
Capit al in Urba n Chan ge, New Bruns wi ck
(NJ), Rutgers University Press; Podmore, Julie,
1998, “(Re)Reading the Loft Living Habitus in
Montreal’s Inner City,” Inte rnational Journal
of Urb an and Regio nal Resea rch, vol. 22,
p. 283-302.
5. Hayes, Derek, 2008, Historical Atlas of Toronto,
Toronto and Vancouver, Douglas & McIntyre.
6. In the pr ewar period, Toronto was seen by
some as a “mere extension of Great Britain.”
By 1911, 8 7% of t he city ’s populati on was
of Briti sh descent, a figure that remained
buoyant until the Second World War. (Harney,
Robert (ed.), 1985, Gathe ring Place: Peop les
and Nei ghborhoo ds of Tor onto , 18 34-19 45,
Toront o, Multi cultu ral Histor y Socie ty of
7. Livey, op. cit.
8. Id.
9. Personal interview with Benjamin Watt-Meyer,
August 2009.
10. Id.
11. In 1925, approxima tely 560 members of the
former Dovercourt Presbyterian Church amal-
gamated with the CMC. (Livey, op. cit.)
12. Livey, op. cit.
13. The rear annex was never classified in the 2004
heritage designation by the City of Toronto.
14. Personal interview with Benjamin Watt-Meyer,
August 2009.
15. The Toronto Japanese United Church was com-
pose d of two congregations: the Issei (first-
generation immigrant-born) formed in 1946
and the Nisei (second-generation Canadian -
born) formed in 195 4.
16. Personal interview with Benjamin Watt-Meyer,
August 2009.
17. Scardellato, Gabriele, 2009, “A Century and
More of I talians in Toronto: An Overview of
Settlement,” Quader ni D’Italianistica, vol. 28,
no. 1, p. 7-31; Murd ie, Robert and Car lo s
Teixeira, 2010, “The Impact of Gentrification
on Eth nic Neig hb ourho od s in Toron to: A
Case Study of Little Por tugal,” Urban Stu dies,
June 8; doi:10.1177/0 04209 8009360227.
18. Murdie and Teixeira, op. cit.
19. Rankin, Katharine, 2008, “Commercial Change
in Toronto’s West- Central Neighbourhoods,”
Resear ch Pap er 214, Cities Centre: University
of Toronto, vol. 214, p. 1- 80.
20. Hack wor th, Jason and Jo se ph ine Reke rs ,
2005, “Ethnic Packaging and Gentrification:
The Case of Four Neighborhoo ds in Toronto,”
Urban Affairs Review, vol. 41, no. 2, p. 211-236.
21. Zukin, Sharon, 19 82, op. cit.; Zukin, Sharon,
1991, Land sc ape s of Powe r: Fro m Detr oit
to Disne y World, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Unive rs it y of Cal ifo rn ia Pre ss; Pod mo re :
28 3-302; Shaw, We nd y, 200 6, “Sydney’ s
SoH o S yndrome? Loft- Livi ng in the Ur bane
City,” Cultural Geographies, vol. 13, p. 182-
206; Ham nett, C hri s and D rew W hit ele gg,
2007, “Loft Conversion and Gentrification in
London: From Industrial to Postindustrial Land
Use,” Env iron ment and Planning A , vo l. 39,
p. 106-124; Mia n, Nadia, 2008 , “Prop het s-
for-Profits: Redevelopment and the A ltering
Urban Religious Lan dsca pe,” Urban Studies,
vol. 45, no. 10, p. 2143-2161.
22. Savitch, Hank V., 1988, The Post Industrial City:
Politics and Planning in New York, Paris and
London, Princeton (NJ), Princeton University
23. Ley, Davi d, 20 03, “Ar tists, Aestheti cis atio n
an d th e Fi el d of Gen tr if ic at io n,” Ur ba n
Studies, vol. 4 0, no. 12, p. 2527-254 4; Zukin,
Sharon, 2009, Naked Cit y: The Deat h and Life
of Authentic Urban Places, New York, Ox ford
University Press.
24. For more on this topic, see Lynch, Nicholas and
David Ley, 2010, “T he Changing Meaning of
Urban Places,” In Trudy Bunting, Pierre Filion,
and R yan Walker (e ds.), Canadian Cit ies in
Transition: New Directions in the Twent y-firs t
Century (4th ed.), Toronto, Ox ford Univer sity
Press, p. 325-341.
25. Personal interview with Benjamin Watt-Meyer,
August 2009.
26. Id.
27. This range include s interior s pace only. The
vast majority of the units also include outdoor
spaces ranging from 8 to almost 500 square
fee t. At the time of p res ale, p rice s ranged
from approximately $210,000 to $700,0 00.
28. Zukin, 1982 : 6 0.
29. For more on this point see: Rofe, Matthew and
Ger trud e Szili, 200 9, “Name Games 1: Place
Names as Rheto rical Devic es ,” Landsc ap e
Research, vol. 34, no. 3, p. 361-370; and Berg,
Lawrence and Jani Vuolteenaho (eds.), 2009,
Critical Toponymies: The Contested Politics of
Place Naming, Burlington (VA) Ashgate.
30. Personal interview w ith Bernard Watt, July
31. Zukin, Sharon, Vale rie Trujillo, Peter Frase,
Da ni el le Ja ck son, Ti m Re cum be r, and
Abraham Walker, 20 09, “New Retail C apital
and Neighborhood Change: Bouti ques and
Ge nt rific atio n in New York Ci ty,” Cit y &
Communit y, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 47-64.
32. Doven co Inc. , The C hur ch: S ale s Bro chu re,
33. Webs ite: [w ww .th ec hu rchlo fts .com] , las t
accessed Oc tobe r 2010 , but not available in
March 2011.
34. Estimates for new condominium built by 2009
in the Greater Toronto Area were approxima-
tely 16,000 units. This estimate would place
the GTA as the largest condo market in Nor th
America ahead o f ci ties like Montrea l, New
York, Vancouver, Houston, and Los Ang eles.
(Thorpe, Jacqueline, 2008 , “Toronto’s Condo
Kings: Is the ir Boom S ustainable?” Fin ancial
Post, June 2, [http://ww
... In fact, as one of Toronto's leading realtors, Brad Lamb's words are entirely strategic, deployed alongside glossy photos, architectural simulations and pithy slogans pitching what has become one of the city's most sought after loft styles: converted churches. Churches, abandoned or sold to urban developers, are reaching celebrity status in many cities across North America as demographic and social changes, notably secularization, place pressures on the sustainability of local faith groups (Hackworth and Gullikson 2012;Lynch 2011;Mian 2008). In response, residential adaptive reuse, the conversion of outmoded non-residential properties to homes, is not only a viable option for developers and city planners seeking to retain historic fabric, but has also But Lamb's prepackaged maxim performs another crucial function. ...
... It is important here to note that during its time as a church, this property was renamed multiple times since its construction in 1906. As a space of worship, for instance, it had several names intended to communicate and identify its specific position within the religious and local communities: in 1906, it was the Centennial Methodist Church, representing the small but growing Methodist community of West Toronto and commemorating the death of Reverend John Wesley; in 1958, it was the Centennial United Church, marking its amalgamation with the United Church of Canada; and, in 1986, it was named the Centennial Japanese United Church to officially recognize its growing Japanese congregations (Lynch 2011). ...
Full-text available
In recent years, a growing number of churches no longer used by religious groups have been converted to loft housing. Church lofts offer consumers heritage architecture and unique aesthetics, elements that distinguish these spaces in the housing market. In order to sell converted churches as viable homes, however, developers and their marketing teams deploy a variety of marketing strategies. Through an analysis of advertising media in Toronto, Ontario, in this paper, I show how former churches are repackaged and promoted with a heritage identity that fits a normative ideal of upscale loft living. In particular, I analyse three central marketing themes: the reinvention of a church to a house and home, the production of identity through place names and the representation of church lofts in the urban landscape. Woven together, these themes rewrite a building’s religious past and legitimize an emerging housing market that makes use of built religious heritage.
... 70 In another vein, some contributions directly address issues of heritage and the way in which ecclesiastical buildings have been adapted for other than Christian liturgical purposes. 71 On occasion, JSSAC readers have been treated to singular associations between the religious and the built environment, like a re-evaluation of Canada's professional ice-hockey arenas as "secular shrines," or a treatise on watermills by the Jesuit Abbé Thomas-Laurent Bédard [1747-1795], or a study arguing for the sacred status of Canada's memorials to the dead of World War I. 72 More to present purposes, though, essays in the JSSAC devoted explicitly to research focused on architects or architecture in Canada, and world religions other than Christianity still remain elusive. Appearing almost two decades apart, Sharon Graham's account of Toronto's synagogue architecture, 1897-1937, and Saadman Ahmed's essay on mosques and Islamic identity in Canada constitute notably rare exceptions. ...
... Many studies have investigated the effect of reuse on the surrounding environment in terms of the price of nearby properties (Stas 2007;Winson-Geideman, Jourdan, and Gao 2007), gentrification of the neighborhood (Lynch 2011), tourism development (Ashworth and Tunbridge 2000;Fotsch 2004;Kalman 2004), and urban regeneration (Orbasli 2002;Cochrane and Tapper 2006;Rodwell 2008), among others. For example, in terms of urban regeneration, the researchers found that reusing certain old buildings can improve large urban areas and act as a catalyst for the regeneration of historical districts. ...
Full-text available
In the early 2000s, a wave of restoration and reuse of historic buildings began in some of Iran’s tourist cities. The aim of these reuse projects, performed by both the private and public sectors, is to transform these buildings into places for tourist, catering, cultural and residential use. A similar trend started in Tehran a few years ago, with the historic buildings mostly located on the central streets or in old neighborhoods being transformed into cafés, galleries, and cultural centers, etc. However, due to the newness of this issue, little research has been conducted on the effects of these changes on the adjacent urban fabric and the lives of local residents. The aim of this study, therefore, is to evaluate the effects of the adaptive reuse of three historic buildings from the viewpoint of local residents. These buildings are located in different parts of the Oudladjan neighborhood in the historical center of Tehran. Data about the selected cases were collected through observations and semi-structured interviews. A total of 40 individuals were interviewed. In addition to the residents, seven in-depth interviews were conducted with experts from the Heritage Organisation, municipality, and with academics. The collected data were analyzed using qualitative methods. The results of this qualitative study show that these reuses have not had any significant positive effect on the life of residents or the regeneration of the neighborhood. The most important reasons for this are: the adoption of a non-participatory, top-down approach, disregarding the needs and priorities of the local citizens, and disregarding the existing context by the authorities.
This article studies the ways in which communicative attributions change when a church building, in this case the Dominican Church in Münster (Westphalia, Germany) is converted from a place of religious ritual to a place which exhibits art. The Dominican Church was deconsecrated in November 2017 and, since June 2018, houses an art installation by Gerhard Richter: a Foucault Pendulum. The observation and analysis of this process of deconsecration and conversion demonstrates, first, how the physical built structure is embedded in different kinds of communication (e.g. religion, art, politics, economics). Second, this study focuses on the agency of socio-spatial arrangements which afford specific kinds of communication. In this regard, I introduce the concept of “atmosphere” to analytically grasp the semantic agency of a given architectural setting in its entanglement with social communication.
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In its ongoing search for a global identity, the city of Sydney, Australia, has looked to other cities for inspiration and direction. Like many of these cities, Sydney's Central Business District, and the former industrial areas that surround it, are being transformed through ‘apartment’ (condominium) development. Many are marketed as ‘New York–style lofts’ via a flurry of promotions that suggest a distinctly generic and global form of cosmopolitan urbanism. The essay details how this recent spate of Manhattanization rests not only on a cache of historically embedded Manhattan imaginaries, but on localized socio–cultural moments that are part of Sydney's particular experience of SoHo Syndrome. Tracing the pathways to Sydney's version of the global phenomenon of loft living has enabled a deeper understanding of the city's evolving built and cultural landscapes.
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This short communication explores the creation of a new suburb as a crucial strategy in the revitalisation of Port Adelaide, Australia. It contends that the existing suburb names of the area are so stigmatised by the landscape's industrial heritage that the development consortium has elected to create a new suburb rather than embark upon a futile campaign to renegotiate the meaning of these names. Drawing upon discourse analysis and critical landscape theory we contend that place names are rhetorical devices and as such are laden with meaning. As rhetorical devices, place names are neither natural nor neutral. Rather they are instruments of meaning and the ability to control them is directly related to power. This short communication is part of a wider research project on Port Adelaide. It seeks to generate debate amongst landscape academics and practitioners on the politics of landscape revitalisation from an Australian perspective.
Through the use of various published and original sources this study outlines the reception and settlement of Italian immigrants in a modern Canadian urban environment. Substantial Italian migration and immigration to Toronto began in the late nineteenth century. The first migrants and immigrants were dispersed across at least four relatively distinct, inner-city neighbourhoods. Overtime, and in particular after World War Two, one of these neighbourhoods grew to become one of the largest settlements of its type outside of Italy. Now in the process of gentrification, the area known as College Street Little Italy served a pivotal role in the accommodation of Italian immigrants in Toronto.
Urban theory has historically situated ethnic commercial strips as an organic extension of nearby ethnic residential enclaving. While this is still a useful way to frame such commercial spaces in many cities, this article argues that some areas of this sort function as a marketable branding mechanism (intended or not) to produce nearby residential gentrification. This article explores the influence of ethnic packaging on the process of gentrification in Toronto, Ontario. Using four ethnically defined business-improvement areas—Corso Italia, Little Italy, India Bazaar, and Greektown on the Danforth—it explores the role that constructed ethnicity plays in the valorization of local real estate markets. The commercial areas of these neighborhoods now function increasingly as ways to market each neighborhood’s residential real estate markets. This has specific implications for gentrification theory and more general ones for the study of urban landscapes.
This paper examines the redevelopment activities of religious institutions in the greater New York City area. In recent years, more and more churches have been selling their property and air rights to create either commercial and market-rate housing or affordable housing. Through archival material and interviews with pastors, the purpose of this descriptive paper is to understand why and how religious institutions, primarily churches, decide to alter their function by becoming entrepreneurial and engaging in property development. The changing character of these institutions is explained through the lens of theories of religious ecology and institutional isomorphism. The paper concludes with suggestions for improvement of the development process.
Gentrification involves the transition of inner-city neighbourhoods from a status of relative poverty and limited property investment to a state of commodification and reinvestment. This paper reconsiders the role of artists as agents, and aestheticisation as a process, in contributing to gentrification, an argument illustrated with empirical data from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Because some poverty neighbourhoods may be candidates for occupation by artists, who value their afford ability and mundane, off-centre status, the study also considers the movement of districts from a position of high cultural capital and low economic capital to a position of steadily rising economic capital. The paper makes extensive use of Bourdieu's conceptualisation of the field of cultural production, including his discussion of the uneasy relations of economic and cultural capitals, the power of the aesthetic disposition to valorise the mundane and the appropriation of cultural capital by market forces. Bourdieu's thinking is extended to the field of gentrification in an account that interprets the enhanced valuation of cultural capital since the 1960s, encouraging spatial proximity by other professionals to the inner-city habitus of the artist. This approach offers some reconciliation to theoretical debates in the gentrification literature about the roles of structure and agency and economic and cultural explanations. It also casts a more critical historical perspective on current writing lauding the rise of the cultural economy and the creative city.
Since the 1970s, certain types of upscale restaurants, cafés, and stores have emerged as highly visible signs of gentrification in cities all over the world. Taking Harlem and Williamsburg as field sites, we explore the role of these new stores and services (“boutiques”) as agents of change in New York City through data on changing composition of retail and services, interviews with new store owners, and discursive analysis of print media. Since the 1990s, the share of boutiques, including those owned by small local chains, has dramatically increased, while the share of corporate capital (large chain stores) has increased somewhat, and the share of traditional local stores and services has greatly declined. The media, state, and quasi-public organizations all value boutiques, which they see as symbols and agents of revitalization. Meanwhile, new retail investors—many, in Harlem, from the new black middle class—are actively changing the social class and ethnic character of the neighborhoods. Despite owners' responsiveness to community identity and racial solidarity, “boutiquing” calls attention to displacement of local retail stores and services on which long-term, lower class residents rely and to the state's failure to take responsibility for their retention, especially in a time of economic crisis.
Despite extensive literature on the nature and impact of gentrification, there has been little consideration of the effects of gentrification on ethnic neighbourhoods. This study evaluates the negative and positive effects of gentrification on the Portuguese in west central Toronto. Details concerning the settlement patterns of the Portuguese, the characteristics of Portuguese residents and patterns of gentrification in inner-city Toronto were obtained from census data. Evaluations of neighbourhood change and attitudes of the residents towards gentrification were obtained from key informant and focus group interviews. The results suggest considerable ambivalence among the respondents, but most agreed that the long-term viability of Little Portugal as an immigrant reception area with a good supply of low-cost housing is in doubt.