Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Hopkins, Jeff


Woodfield is a neighbourhood in the historic core of London, Ontario, Canada that contains two designated Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs). This thesis considers the impacts of HCD designation on sense of place, and whether the HCD plans support or challenge the physical and community aspects of place that are valued by the interviewed residents. This research is grounded in the geographical literature related to the concepts of place, gentrification and creative destruction.

Four objectives guided this research: to identify explicit and implicit references to sense of place, and the power dynamics within the HCD plans; to depth interview residents of Woodfield to reveal implicit or explicit impacts of the plans on their sense of place; to produce a theoretical model of this relationship; and to depth interview City of London Planners to gain their perspective on this analysis.

A discourse analysis of the HCD plans revealed the hegemonic discourses within, and how power/rhetoric flow through them. These were compared to the discourses, and notably the counter-discourses, that emerged through the qualitative depth interviews with residents (n=39).

The results show: that there is a lack of engagement with the HCD place brands and plans; that a mix of people, land uses, and architectural designs are valued elements of residential sense of place among those interviewed; and that this runs counter to the discourses in the HCD plans. A revised theory of Mitchell’s model of creative destruction is presented to model changes to the underlying place, over time, following designation.

The research findings contribute to a limited body of research into residential sense of place in the context of designated heritage districts, and the impacts of the associated guidelines and plans on sense of place. Policy recommendations are provided, developed in consultation with three professional City of London Planners. This dissertation ultimately calls for a reconsideration of the approach taken to HCD designation and management, including better resident engagement, recognition and encouragement of broader types of residents and land uses in the HCD plans, and the creation of a policy mechanism for revisiting the HCD plans over time.