Originally a semi-suburban neighbourhood home to the city’s middle class in the 19th century, this neighbourhood of Victorian housing stock was rezoned in the 1950s when the City of Toronto announced major zoning amendments for the downtown core.
During this period, the nineteenth century homes were levelled, and apartment towers were erected. Each tower accommodated thousands of residents surrounded by green spaces. Each of the buildings is named after a major Canadian city.
However, the neighbourhood spun into greater decline and rather than the government changing tack, more towers continued to pop up, creating the current most densely populated community in all of Canada, as well as one of the poorest.
In September of 1997 the former City of Toronto council approved St. James Town 2000: A Community Action Plan which aims to revitalize St. James Town through initiatives such as the building of a multi-service community centre, improvements to parks, and the maintenance and repair of St. James Town buildings.
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. In 2013, St. James Town became the host of the World’s Tallest Mural, as approved by Guinness. Today, the towers are mostly home to newly arrived immigrant, and low-income families.