St. James Town

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Not to be confused with Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown.
St. James Town
St. James Town viewed from atop the Winnipeg tower
St. James Town viewed from atop the Winnipeg tower
St James Town map.PNG
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
City Toronto Flag.svg Toronto

St. James Town (sometimes misspelled St. Jamestown) is a neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It lies in the northeast corner of the downtown area. The neighbourhood covers the area bounded by Sherbourne Street to the west, Bloor Street East to the north, Parliament Street to the east, and Wellesley Street East to the south.

St. James Town is the largest high-rise community in Canada. It has been identified as one of 13 economically deprived neighborhoods within the city. It consists of 19 high-rise buildings (14 to 32 stories). These residential towers were built in the 1960s. Officially, approximately 17,000 people live in the neighbourhood's 19 apartment towers and 4 low rise buildings, making it one of Canada's most densely populated communities.[1]


St. James Town began to grow in the 19th century when it became a semi-suburban area home to the city's middle class. The area was rezoned in the 1950s, and the nineteenth century homes were leveled, and apartment towers — inspired by Le Corbusier's Towers in the Park concept — were erected. Each tower, which were named after major Canadian cities, accommodated thousands of residents surrounded by green space, but with few amenities. The 14 story Quebec was completed in 1959, the 18 story Victoria in 1965, and The Toronto's 24 floors in 1967. In the same census time period (1961 - 1971) St. Jamestown's population explodes to 11,462 from only 862.[2]

St. James Town condominiums

In the late 1960s, the developers attempted to acquire land south of Wellesley, as far as Carlton Street, to expand the St. James Town development. Many residents of the area resisted, with the support of civic activist and future Mayor of Toronto John Sewell. The St. James Town expansion was cancelled, and the homes that had been demolished were replaced with several housing cooperatives.

Aerial Photograph of St. James Ward, 1942

St. James Town's highrises were originally designed after the Second World War to house young "swinging single" middle class residents. This plan was spurred forward by the federal government, that saw city building as a key to post-depression, post-war, nation's recovery.[3] The apartments lacked appeal though, poorly constructed, and with a lack of amenities to support the density spike;[3] many prospective tenants instead moved to suburban houses in the developing areas of Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York. The area quickly became much poorer. Four buildings were later built by the province to provide public housing. Today, the towers are mostly home to newly arrived immigrant families, with only 33% being born in Canada, according to the 2011 Census.

In 2001, the City of Toronto launched a major initiative to improve the area, including the construction of a new Toronto Public Library branch and community centre, which opened in 2004 at the corner of Sherbourne and Wellesley. Lanterra Developments has also proposed plans to replace some of the remaining Victorian homes in St. Jamestown with several more towers.[4]

On September 24, 2010, a fire broke out on the 24th floor of 200 Wellesley St East (the white building behind the library and community centre). Fourteen people were taken to hospital due to injuries, including three firefighters and two children; three of the injuries were classed as serious. The cause of the fire was determined to be a cigarette thrown from a balcony above.[5]

In 2013, St. James Town became the host of the World's Tallest Mural, pending approval by Guinness.[6]

St. James Town Library inside Wellesley Community Centre

Census tract 0065.00 of the 2006 Canadian census covers St. James Town. According to that census, the neighbourhood has 14,666 residents. Average income is $22,341, one of the lowest in Toronto. In the 2011 National Household Survey, the average income of residents in Ontario is reported to be $42,264. When compared to the average income of residents in this Census Tract from the 2011 Census year, this is a difference of $19,923. When further examined against the average income of residents in Canada, whereby it is reported to be $40,650 in the 2011 National Household Survey, the difference remains similar at $18,309. Both of these differences therefore shows us the sharp income disparities in this Census Tract and its resulting socio-economic impacts on its residents (Census 2006, Census 2011). Due to its cultural and minority demographics, St. James Town is often thought as "the world within a block". It is mostly a so-called minority community, largely filled with immigrants — especially those who arrived in the 1990s. The ten most common languages in the neighbourhood, after English, are:

  1. Tagalog - 8.1%
  2. Tamil - 5.5%
  3. Unspecified Chinese - 2.5%
  4. Mandarin - 2.5%
  5. Korean - 1.9%
  6. Spanish - 1.8%
  7. Russian - 1.8%
  8. Serbian - 1.4%
  9. Bengali - 1.4%
  10. Urdu - 1.4%

The disproportional number of renters to owners in this area has been explored on the 2006 and 2011 census and the numbers tell a troubling story about the falling number of property owners in this census Tract area. The data suggest in 2006, 50 people owned one of the limited amount of older model properties in the area but by 2011 that number had fallen to 40. This however could be in correlation to the fall in the overall population in the area. Though the area is seeing improvements in terms of access to amenities the population has indeed dropped from 14,666 to 13,910 between census years 2006 and 2011.(census 2006,census 2011)

Non-residential content[edit]

In October 2009, St. James Town contained the following businesses, organizations and institutions:

  • Rose Avenue Public School, a Toronto Board of Education school for Kindergarten through grade 6, on Ontario Street north of St. James Avenue
  • a community centre and branch of the Toronto Public Library, at the intersection of Sherbourne Street and Wellesley Street East
  • a Food Basics at Ontario Street and Wellesley Street East. Previously, a No Frills had also operated at Sherbourne Street and Earl Street, but the grocer lost its lease effective as of July 2013. Signage on the store informs passersby that a FreshCo will open in the location, but no information on its opening date has been announced.
  • three pharmacies, including a Shoppers Drug Mart box store on Sherbourne Street near Howard Street, an independent pharmacy on Howard Street at Bleecker Street, and an independent pharmacy on Ontario Street south of St. James Avenue
  • at least six convenience stores, two on Howard Street, two on Sherbourne Street, one on Ontario Street south of St. James Avenue, and one on Wellesley Street East
  • a food bank at the rear of the building on 275 Bleecker Street
  • The St. James Town Youth Council, a body of community youth who meet regularly to address issues in their community. Currently, they host an annual talent show called "Urban Flair" featuring performances by local youth. This competition allows members of the community to support each other and provides an opportunity for new and upcoming stars to take to the stage.
  • The St. Jamestown Community Cafe was launched in 2011. This pay-what-you-can cafe hopes to find a permanent home and establish Toronto's first community powered PWYC eating establishment while also providing a place for community members to interact and be entertained. The cafe founders also hope to provide an incubator for other community organizations interested in developing and establishing their own neighbourhood's version of a community powered pwyc cafe.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ City of Toronto: St. James Town neighbourhood profile
  2. ^ "Statistics Canada." Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. Web. Accessed 31 Mar. 2014.
  3. ^ a b Caulfield, Jon. City form and everyday life: Toronto's gentrification and critical social practice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994
  4. ^ Landau, Jack. Lanterra's North St James Town Proposal Resurfaces Urban Toronto. 28 February 2013
  5. ^ Powell, Betsy (30 September 2013). "200 Wellesley St. fire: 600 tenants to share in $4.85M compensation". The Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013. The fire, which caused more than $1 million in damage, broke out Sept. 24, 2010, in a 24th floor unit, after a discarded cigarette landed on a balcony filled with an “excessive amount of combustible materials,” according to the Office of the Fire Marshal. 
  6. ^ "Toronto teens and artists create what could be world's tallest mural". CBC News. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  7. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°40′9″N 79°22′22″W / 43.66917°N 79.37278°W / 43.66917; -79.37278