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Development versus Preservation Interests in the Making of a Music City: A Case Study of Select Iconic Toronto Music Venues and the Treatment of Their Intangible Cultural Heritage Value

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2017

Sara Gwendolyn Ross*
PhD candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, Canada, and Member of the Ontario Bar; Email:


Urban redevelopment projects increasingly draw on culture as a tool for rejuvenating city spaces but, in doing so, can overemphasize the economic or exchange-value potential of a cultural space to the detriment of what was initially meaningful about a space—that which carries great cultural community wealth, use-value, or embodies a group’s intangible cultural heritage. Development and preservation interests illustrate this tension in terms of how cultural heritage—both tangible and intangible—is managed in the city. This article will turn to Toronto’s “Music City” strategy that is being deployed as part of a culture-focused urban redevelopment trend and Creative City planning initiative in order to examine how the modern urban intangible merits of city spaces are valuated and dealt with in light of the comparatively weak regard accorded to intangibility within the available heritage protection legal frameworks of Canada, Ontario, and, specifically, Toronto. The currently underdeveloped recognition for intangibility in the heritage protection equation not only fails to equally valuate non-dominant, unconventional, or alternative iterations of culture but also falls behind the key guiding documents in international law for the safeguarding and recognition of intangible cultural heritage as well as in accounting for intangibility in determining heritage value. Without diligent inclusive strategies to account for, and consult, the diverse spectrum of groups, cultures, and cultural spaces affected by urban heritage and cultural city planning processes, a city’s development initiatives risk counterproductively destroying the precise characteristics they are otherwise seeking to nourish, create, and, even, commodify.

Research Article
Copyright © International Cultural Property Society 2017 

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