View of Leila Lane in Lawrence Heights
Lawrence Heights is a neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located north-west of central Toronto, in the district of North York. The neighbourhood is roughly bounded by Lawrence Avenue to the south, Yorkdale Road to the north, Varna Drive to the east and Dufferin Street to the west. It is part of the greater Yorkdale-Glen Park official Toronto neighbourhood.
The area is divided into two distinct subsections. One half of the neighbourhood is a post World War II development of bungalows and storey-and-a-half dwellings. As the frontage of these homes average 45 feet, the area has had significant changes as older houses are torn down and replaced by "Monster Homes" as the area's proximity to major city arteries and the downtown core make it lucrative to builders. The other housing area, which is east of Flemington Road, is short-term public housing. Because of the area's proximity to Downsview Airport, high-rise buildings were not originally permitted to be constructed in this area, and the majority of the housing is in low to mid-rise buildings.
Lawrence Heights was the first large public housing project built by Metropolitan Toronto outside of the then-City of Toronto and is now managed under Toronto Community Housing. By 1955, 100 acres (40 ha) had been assembled by Metro. The project would have approximately 6,000 residents in 1,081 family units at a density of 12 families per acre, the largest public housing project to that date in Canada. When the project was announced, it sparked a strong opposition from the then North York Township. Citizens and elected officials threatened legal action to block the development. A compromise was worked out between Metro and North York whereby some of the units would be rented at market rates so that the project would not be exclusively very poor families.
Construction was completed by 1962. It consisted mainly of row houses and maisonettes with some small apartment buildings of less than 30 units each. A buffer of single-family dwellings was built between the project and the private sub-division to the east. An elementary school was part of the project. The elementary school filled up immediately and senior elementary students were sent to a neighbouring junior high. A controversy erupted over the use of the swimming pool at a neighbouring secondary school, whereby project students could only use the pool on one or two evenings per week. A community center was built in the mid-1960s, its $100,000 cost shared by North York and Metro without any support from the Ontario or the federal housing agency Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Lawrence Heights has been referred to as the "Jungle" by residents and police alike soon after its completion in 1962. The Globe and Mail article "Toronto's new murder capital" gives insight into the crime in the area: "It's like you're in the jungle. It is like a war," says Linkx, a 20-year-old hip hop producer from nearby Rexdale who wears Crip colours and spoke on condition of anonymity.
In 2007, then city councillor Howard Moscoe unveiled a plan to revitalize Lawrence Heights. The plan proposes a demolition of all 1,208 units in the neighbourhood, as well as Lawrence Square, and they would be replaced by modern affordable units, market housing and retail/commercial streets, including a northward extension of Marlee Avenue. The plan was objected by nearly all surrounding neighbourhood residents due to overcrowding and the added traffic congestion it would bring.  As of late 2015, the low rise housing units at Ranee Avenue and Flemington Road (along with a vacant lot) are being demolished for a new condo project (Yorkdale Condos).
In 2015, the city kicked off a large redevelopment project in the area. The aim is to transform one of the city’s largest public housing communities into a mixed-income neighbourhood.
Population percentage of selected visible minority groups, according to the 2011 National Household Survey for the Census tract:
Population for Census tract 5350287.01 in 2006 was 7272 but steadily increases to 7442 in 2011. According to the 2006 Census, the population in this Census Tract (Lawrence Heights) that are categorized under the Black visible minority group was 1590. In the 2011 National Household Survey, this group increased to 1875. This shows that there is a high increase population of Black minority group in this neighbourhood but also the highest population in comparison to other minorities. We see an increase in the Filipino group from 600 in 2006 census to 745 in 2011 NHS and also South Asian group increases from 140 to 300. Other visible minorities decrease in population from this neighbourhood especially Arab group, which goes from recording 55 in 2006 to zero in the 2011NHS. Overall the black population still remains to be the largest population of racial minorities in this census tract (Census 2011, Census 2006).
In the 2011 census, 1625 people reported to make under $30,000 while 750 people reported to make between $30,000 and $59,999. Only 335 people reported to make over $60,000. The average income for Lawrence Heights is $32,256 while the median income is $23,575. These figures point to substantial income inequality in the neighbourhood, as a higher proportion (approximately 60%) of respondents are at or below the average income, with most scoring closer to the mean income. Given that the low-income cut-off or the 'poverty line' in Canada is $23,298 (for an individual or families of two or more living in a city with a population over 500,000), Lawrence Heights can be considered a low-income neighbourhood. There are fears that the revitalization plan will push out low-income populations as similar plans have done elsewhere in Toronto.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is a secular English first language public school board that operates schools in the neighbourhood. TDSB operates two institutions that offer primary education, Flemington Public School, and Lawrence Heights Middle School; as well as one secondary school, John Polanyi Collegiate Institute. The secondary school is situated in the former building of Bathurst Heights Secondary School, before it was shut down by TDSB. The building was also the temporary site for the public secondary separate school, Brebeuf College School, when Brebeuf underwent restorations. The present secondary school was reopened in 2011.
In addition to TDSB, Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir (CSCM), Conseil scolaire Viamonde (CSV), and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) also offer schooling to applicable residents of Lawrence Heights, although they do not operate a school in the neighbourhood. Applicable students residing in Lawrence Heights attend schools situated in other neighbourhoods in Toronto. CSCM and TCDSB are separate school boards, the former being a French first language school board, the latter being an English first language school board; whereas CSV is a secular French first language school board.
Several municipal parks are located in Lawrence Heights, including Flemington Park, Ranee Park, Varna Park, and Yorkdale Park. Parks in the neighbourhood are managed by the Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division. In addition to municipal parks, the division also manages a community centre in the neighbourhood, Lawrence Heights Community Centre.
Several major roadways serve as the neighbourhood's boundaries, with Lawrence Avenue to the south, and Highway 401 to the north. Highway 401 is a major east-west controlled access highway. Portions of another controlled access highway, Allen Road, bisects the neighbourhood.
Public transportation in the neighbourhood is provided by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), including several bus routes, and the Toronto subway. Two stops for Line 1 Yonge–University of the Toronto subway are located in the neighbourhood: Lawrence West station and Yorkdale station, located near Yorkdale Shopping Centre. In addition to local TTC bus routes, regional commuter buses operated by GO Transit may be accessed from Yorkdale Bus Terminal. Several other private bus operators can also use the terminal, including Greyhound Canada, Ontario Northland Motor Coach Services, and Penetang-Midland Coach Lines.
- Donovan Bailey, track and field sprinter, Olympic gold medalist
- Dolo, rapper and member of the group Ghetto Concept
- Rose, pp. 69-72
- Rose, pp. 72-73
- Vincent, Donovan (May 11, 2007). "Massive Lawrence Heights overhaul planned". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- 'Massive' plan to revamp troubled Lawrence Heights
- Plan to re-create Lawrence Heights unveiled
- Statistics Canada, 2011
- National Household Survey, 2011
- NHS, 2011
- Rose, Albert (1972). Governing Metropolitan Toronto: A Social and Political Analysis 1953-1971. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02041-3.