Urenio Watch Watch: Intelligent Cities / Smart Cities

Strategies for a Creative City

The report, “Imagine a Toronto….Strategies for a Creative City” summarises the findings of a project which aimed to produce a strategy that addresses the current needs of Toronto’s creative economy, promotes its future growth and leverages these creative assets to enhance economic and social opportunity.

“Creativity means business,” said Professor Meric Gertler Project Director for the Toronto team,

Creativity has become the ultimate economic resource, adding a new dimension to the competitive potential of cities around the world.

“Strategies for Creative Cities” project started in December 2004 and it was a joint venture between Toronto and London, England that brought together leading creative entrepreneurs and urban thinkers. Drawing on international best practices identified through a combination of desk and field research, the project is identifying optimal strategies for building the necessary infrastructure and environment in which creativity can flourish.

The Strategies for Creative Spaces project is thus centred on three principal objectives:

  1. The identification and evaluation of international best practice in the development of the creative city and in particular the creative cluster and the leverage of creative assets for broader local and regional economic regeneration and development.
  2. The delivery of a practical learning experience for creative cluster, economic development, public policy and academic professionals that provides a stimulus to the development or refinement of creative cluster interventions.
  3. Developing a deep network of ongoing bi-lateral relationships between creative cluster, economic development, and public policy practitioners in London, Toronto, and other major global creative centres around the world.

In order to meet these objectives, the project has been investigating two key questions:

  • What ‘levers’ can be employed to nurture and grow the creative economy and a city’s
    creative assets and/or to make a city a creative centre?
  • How can the value of a city’s creative and cultural assets be maximised for the
    purposes of regional economic development?

Overall, five themes of good practice have been highlighted from our research: ENTERPRISE & INNOVATION; SPACE; PEOPLE; VISION; and CONNECTIVITY. These stress the importance of: leadership both at an individual, group and institutional level; grassroots and community creativity; facilitating enterprise with a ‘light touch’; centres for creative and non-creative convergence; workspace and quality of place; connectivity between local/neighbourhood, city and regional scales; city vision and multi-sector integration, in particular, breaking down ‘silos’ in terms of decision-making, resource allocation, organisational delivery and infrastructure provision – i.e. both joined up policy and joined up working.

These success factors and examples of good practice can be summarised as follows. The themes and examples are detailed in the final Report, with examples of good practice drawn from city case studies. Full length case study reports are being published for London, Barcelona, Berlin, Toronto, New York and San Francisco.


  • Creative industries business support is an essential component of building a city’s creative economy.
  • Convergence Centres can address many creative sector needs, combining education, research, high-tech, creative industry/production innovation and showcasing facilities.
  • Higher Education, R&D and Enterprise Clusters require transparent financing, joint venture and knowledge transfer arrangements and high quality physical facilities to work effectively.


  • Affordable space for creative activity and enterprise is an enduring issue.
  • Capital assets must be legislatively or institutionally protected from market forces, especially around property.
  • Using built form, public and natural spaces to express a city’s creativity.
  • Creative people and capital assets are a powerful force to regenerate neighbourhoods


  • Creativity instruction and activity in the public education system is a vital component of prioritising and supporting the creative industries.
  • There is a need to engage in social and community renewal through culture and creativity.
  • Grassroots level is the source for much creative talent.
  • Impressive projects often emerge because of individuals or small groups of artists who provide visionary leadership.


  • Multi-level, multi-sector support of the creative economy agenda is a valuable.


  • Organizing infrastructure can connect existing creative activity and resources that currently work in silos. This infrastructure must be stable, light-touch and occur on and between two levels – city-wide and neighbourhood/community.
  • Finance and Fiscal incentives.