“Second Tier Cool”: Residents’ Experiences of a Mid-Size City’s Gentrifying Downtown
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Ubiquitous depictions of life in a big city evoke images of young professionals enjoying craft beers on patios, eating out at trendy bistro-lounges, and biking on dedicated cycling lanes to work. Positive portrayals of downtown living in mid-size cities however, are much more uncommon, and there is little in the literature that discusses the revitalization of these smaller urban centres. This research begins to fill the gap by analyzing the gentrifying processes of mid-size cities’ downtowns, using the City of Kitchener, Ontario as a case study. Through observations, census data analysis, and interviews, the study addresses how residents’ experiences of the downtown reflect both the gentrification literature and Kitchener’s downtown plans. This research found that participants’ experiences of living in the core revealed the distinctive upgrading trajectory of this smaller city and reflected elements of Kitchener’s urbanity, the downtown’s decline, and its mid-size status.