A Brief History of the Centre
for Urban and Community Studies: The First Twenty-Five Years,
1960 to 1985
the PDF with the full version
of the Centre's history.
The Centre’s roots
go back to the early “brown bag” lunches of
its founding members. Beginning in 1961, S.D. Clark (of
Political Economy and, after 1962, Sociology), Oswald Hall
(Sociology), Donald Kerr and Jacob Spelt (Geography), James
Milner (Law), and Albert Rose (Social Work), met every few
months in the McMaster building (now the Royal Conservatory)
to discuss their research interests and read papers to each
other. Their concerns focused mainly on Metro Toronto and
the urban-related activities of the federal and provincial
They decided to create a
research centre focused on urban affairs and established
a committee to promote the idea. In a meeting with President
Claude T. Bissell on November 20, 1963, the committee successfully
pleaded its case. The School of Graduate Studies established
the Centre on May 1, 1964.
The centre was managed by
an Executive Council of six faculty members, with a chair-man
appointed by the president. The president also appointed
a director responsible for the centre’s day-to-day
work. A Faculty Council and an Advisory Council made up
of persons from outside the university met at least once
a year to determine general policy and advise the Executive
The inaugural seminar of
the Centre of Urban Studies, on urban renewal, took place
in Simcoe Hall on October 29 and 30, 1964. The new Centre
also initiated several research projects, including the
Timmins Project (Clark), the Georgian Bay Project (Milner),
the Land Use Atlas (Kerr) and the CMHC-funded Alexandra
Park Project (Rose).
In 1966 Stefan Dupre became
director. In those days, the Centre was a one-person op-eration
in the back room of a rented house on Spadina Avenue (since
torn down). The di-rector had a secretary, some funding,
and little else. Nevertheless, the name of the Centre was
enlarged to encompass “community studies” to
reflect research on community issues that were not necessarily
urban in origin or expression.
The Executive Council and
the director planned seminars, discussion groups, visiting
lecturers, and monthly luncheons featuring guest speakers.
By 1970 the Centre had 20 pro-fessors among its resident
researchers and maintained regular contact with more than
80 faculty members.
A publication program
that is still active started in 1968 with the release of
the first Re-search Paper on urban development in Quebec
and Ontario by Larry Bourne and Alan Baker. In 1969 A.J.
Scott contributed the first bibliography, on combinatorial
programming in planning; and in 1974, Albert Rose published
the first Major Report, on citizen participation in urban
renewal. The first Centre newsletter was published in 1972,
discontinued after a few issues, and reactivated in 1978.
In 1984, an international journal, Women & Environments,
began its five-year sojourn at the Centre. It is now owned
by the non-profit WEED Foundation.
In 1969, the Centre appointed
Larry S. Bourne associate director to help with the in-creased
administrative load, and the Centre moved to 150 St. George
Street. Richard So-berman (1971-72) succeeded Dupre as director,
followed by Bourne (1972-84).
Major research initiatives
An extensive exploration
of alternative future trajectories of urban and economic
devel-opment in Ontario and Quebec, funded primarily by
A massive five-year study
of the effects of housing type on the preferences and
behaviour of households in the process of relocation,
headed by William Michelson
The Joint Program in Transportation
(JPT), which linked faculty and students from engi-neering,
economics, geography, planning, and law at York University
and the University of Toronto (the program still exists
as a free-standing unit within the University of Toronto)
The Housing Markets program,
initially funded by the University’s Connaught Fund
The Child in the City Program (1976-83) was set up in response
to the needs of the Hos-pital for Sick Children Foundation
for research on the effects of social, neighbourhood and
environmental change on urban children. It was the largest
and most ambitious program as-sociated with the Centre and
the first to combine faculty from the medical, health, and
social science communities. In 1982, the Childcare Resource
and Research Unit (CRRU) emerged from this innovative project.
In 1977, the global secretariat
of the International Network for Social Network Analysis
(INSNA) was established in the Centre under Barry Wellman.
INSNA linked more than 300 social network analysts from
all continents. The INSNA newsletter Connections was pub-lished
three times a year through the Centre from 1976 until 1988,
when it moved to the Uni-versity of Florida.
The Centre hosted its first major international conference,
on urban housing markets re-search and policy, in October
1977. Another major conference, “The Metropolis,”
was held in November 1983 in honour of the distinguished
urban planner, teacher, activist and Centre associate, Hans
The Centre’s resource
room of research material and policy documents was organized
in 1978. The major focus was on housing, but its expanding
holdings reflected the Centre’s changing research
In the 1970s, the Centre
supported up to 40 students a year as research assistants
on major projects. The Centre also offered dissertation
fellowships, small grants and assistant-ships. These unfortunately
stopped in the early 1980s as budgets space tightened.
Ambitious expansion plans
were put on hold in the 1980s because of the downturn in
funding and waning political interest in urban questions.
The federal Ministry of State for Ur-ban Affairs closed
in 1979, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation retreated
from funding large-scale external research projects, and
the Bureau of Municipal Research in To-ronto closed in 1982.
In 1982 the Centre moved
to its present location at the top of the former Tip Top
Tailors building at 455 Spadina Avenue. The offices were
renovated and the original front doors of the old Victorian
house at 150 St. George were mounted in the fourth-floor
The director appointed in
July 1984, Meyer Brownstone, oversaw the next phase in the
Centre’s evolution, a period in which existing research
projects continued with the addition of several dealing
with problems of urbanization in developing countries.