Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Lehmann, Wolfgang


This study explores the dynamics of neighbourhood renewal to understand the actualities, potentials, and barriers for urban renewal to be a site for engaging in emancipatory social change locally and extra locally. The purpose is to assess the potential of neighbourhood renewal as an opportunity structure for creating counterhegemonic forms of urbanism (see Purcell, 2009, 2013) and to identify strategies to strengthen those potentials. These possibilities involve the transformation of social, political, and economic structures in ways that nurture local democracy/self-management, social inclusion, and collective ownership of property and businesses. To examine neighbourhoods in this way I develop the concept of critical urban renewal (CUR) to describe the possibilities of how neighbourhoods can be shaped to achieve those ends.

The second part of the study presents a case study of the Old East Village (OEV) - a post-industrial revitalizing neighbourhood in London, Ontario - to examine the actualities of how CUR is present or repressed within the local neighbourhood renewal context. The case study draws on multiple sources of data including: 14 interviews with organizational representatives active in OEV, 36 interviews with residents of the neighbourhood who volunteer in the community in various ways, and public records including media reports, neighbourhood planning documents, meeting minutes, and local histories. The goal of this case study is to provide a model for research that can be conducted in other neighbourhood renewal projects to identify strategies for organizing toward CUR. It also provides insight into the urban renewal context at the local and extra-local levels with attention to how the relationship between capital, the state, and the community function to nurture or constrain the capacity for CUR practices.

Overall, this study shows that even in a neighbourhood such as OEV where features of CUR are present it is difficult to keep CUR principles at the center of neighbourhood renewal. As an alternative approach to urban renewal, CUR requires intentional organizing from the grass-roots as well as from state actors. If the logic of capital is not actively controlled within urban renewal processes it is inevitably going to transform urban space into its own image defining community and justice within its confines.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.