The Annex | One of Toronto?s most walkable and safe central neighbourhoods

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue of Invest In Style Magazine.

The Annex, one of Toronto’s most walkable and safe central neighbourhoods, is officially bounded by Avenue Road on the east and Bathurst Street to the west, the railway line along Dupont Street to the north, and vibrant Bloor Street to the south, with its diverse mix of retail, restaurants and cultural venues.

Annex row of houses: Photo by Taylor Nullmeyer

Originally considered part of Yorkville, the area was “annexed” by the City of Toronto and subdivided in the late 1800s. The mostly Victorian and Edwardian mansion-style detached houses here were home to the upper middle class of the early to mid 20th century. Some of these houses were later divided into rooms and apartments for returning vets and newcomers, although many have since been restored. The

University of Toronto’s beautiful downtown St. George campus, bordering Bloor Street to the south, now attracts to the neighbourhood a younger student population, as well as faculty. Internationally renowned writers, artists, scientists and musicians have made the Annex home.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, beloved urban scholar, activist and long-time Annex resident Jane Jacobs was a vociferous opponent of the proposed Spadina Expressway which, had it been successful, would have cut through the centre of this largely residential, tree-lined neighbourhood.

The Annex is home to the Bloor Street Culture Corridor, “Toronto’s most diverse arts and culture district.” This includes the architecturally stunning Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Canada’s most visited museum, the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, A Different Booklist Cultural Centre (a legacy project dedicated to the intellectual and cultural experience of people of African and Caribbean ancestry), and many more year-round cultural events and spaces. To the east of the ROM, the Annex leads into the neighbourhood of Yorkville, Canada’s most fashionable shopping district.

 Visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) 

A “walker’s paradise,” the Annex boasts a Walk Score of 92. And while you don’t need a car for everyday errands, the Annex’s public transit score is a whopping 96. Five subway stations and numerous streetcar lines serve the neighbourhood well. The streetcar at Spadina station is minutes from the multicultural Kensington Market, and Chinatown (both of which are also within walking distance of the Annex), and downtown’s Union Station transit hub.

St. George is a station located north of Bloor Street West between St. George Street and Bedford Road. This is the second-busiest station, after Bloor–Yonge station. Photo by Taylor Nullmeyer.

The Annex is a particularly bike friendly neighbourhood, with numerous Bike Share Toronto stations, and bicycle rental shops. Busy Bloor Street has dedicated bicycle lanes.

Urban parks, with play structures and art sculptures, are built into corners or tucked away, some as tiny, green-space parkettes. Redesigned and newly refurbished in 2012, Jean Sibelius Square Park includes a playground, field house, playing field, pathways and central plaza. For dog lovers, there are two off-leash dog parks adjacent to the Annex. 

Commissioned by the City of Toronto a 5.7M high stainless steel structure with a water feature located at Taddle Creek Park. Sculpture created by Sandler Studio Inc. Photo by Taylor Nullmeyer

A number of excellent public and private schools serve the Annex, including Huron Street Junior Public School, Jesse Ketchum Junior and Senior Public School, Royal St. George’s College and University of Toronto Schools (both private), the Waldorf Academy, Howlett Academy, and a handful of others including alternative programs and language schools.

New to the neighbourhood is the iconic and award-winning Summerhill Market, an independent grocery store and catering service. Its Bathurst Street location includes their own kitchen-made soups and preserves, as well as an impressive assortment of fresh meals-to-go.

At the southwest border of the Annex, around the intersection of Bathurst and Bloor, Toronto’s black community was once served by a local newspaper, Contrast (1969 to 1986), founded by Al Hamilton. The weekly publication, where black journalists honed their skills, aimed to serve black Canadians of all backgrounds, in Toronto and across the country. Austin Clarke was one of the paper’s managing editors many years before he became a Giller prize-winning novelist.

While the westernmost boundary of the Annex officially ends at Bathurst, even the City of Toronto recognizes that the area west
of Bathurst, known as
Seaton Village, is considered to be “the west Annex.” Compared to the Annex proper’s elegant and stately residential character, the west Annex has a young family, eclectic, urban vibe.

Aerial photo of The Annex in the summer. Photo By Taylor Nullmeyer