Under the direction of City Council, the City of Toronto is developing a Cultural Districts Program in response to community-based advocacy and efforts to support local culture across several neighbourhoods. To advance this work, the City retained Jay Pitter Placemaking to develop a city-wide Cultural Districts Plan as well as a Little Jamaica Cultural District Plan. The Executive Summary Jay Pitter Placemaking’s proposal for a Cultural Districts program can be found below.
Working from this program proposal, the City will develop a Cultural Districts Program, with eligibility criteria, recognition framework and an application process. The Cultural Districts Plan will inform the Program, among other factors like financial planning, public consultation and an analysis of existing community services.
Using an asset-based and intersectional approach, Jay Pitter Placemaking’s Cultural Districts Plan shares findings from broad public engagements and proposes a holistic and collaborative cultural policy and placemaking framework, outlining a program delivery model premised on co-stewardship and community leadership. The Cultural Districts Plan aims not to further stigmatize equity-deserving communities, rather to direct intentional investment of resources, services and programs to support creative place-keeping and place-making in partnership with them.
The Cultural Districts Plan encourages enhancement and coordination of City services, resources, technical expertise, policies and funding tools that support emerging approaches to protecting, retaining and celebrating local culture. The Plan positions the City of Toronto as a key program administrator and funding partner, while recognizing the important roles and expertise of others such as community members, not-for-profit organizations, philanthropic leaders, corporations and grassroots groups.
A Cultural Districts Program is currently in development, with an announcement of final program design expected in mid-2023.
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The creation of a city-wide Cultural Districts Program follows multiple 2020 and 2021 Councillor motions endorsed by City Council calling for recommendations and plans for the City of Toronto to provide ongoing support for multiple cultural communities and their businesses. City Council approved the creation of the program at its November Council session with the following parameters for City staff:
In addition to these parameters, City Council recommended that broad engagement occur with local City Councillors, community members, stakeholders, BIAs and relevant Council Advisory Bodies, prior to providing final recommendations for the program design and implementation in a 2022 staff report.
November 9, 2021 – Staff Report to City Council (At this time, Toronto does not have a formal cultural districts program. This report outlines why Toronto needs to develop a cultural districts program, and the potential benefits it may bring for diverse communities, the city’s culture sector, and for Toronto as a whole.)
In the spring of 2022, Jay Pitter Placemaking and the City of Toronto partnered with a variety of community organizations, academic institutions and not-for-profit organizations to host a series of community engagement panels. These panels explored key issues and topics relevant to the development of the Cultural Districts Program, and were intended to gather a wide range of professional, academic and lived-experience expertise to inform the program. Topics included:
A public survey was also conducted between April 20 and May 20, 2022. A social media campaign was launched to promote both the survey and the panel events, as well as to raise general awareness of the initiative. The invaluable information gleaned from the panels and public survey will be integrated into the Cultural Districts Program proposal and a special Cultural Districts Program co-learning toolkit.