Community Profile: North York

North York is an expansive suburb to the north of Toronto that’s ideal for those looking to combine the space and freedom of the suburbs without moving too far from Toronto’s downtown core.

With a population of 691,595, North York is an eclectic community which is home to cultures from all over the world and sprawling modern amenities. Still, this large suburban centre doesn’t stray too far from its humble roots, serving as the venue for numerous parks, greenspaces, a lake, and the historic Black Creek Pioneer Village historic living museum. 

The History of North York

Essential to the early history of North York is the course of the Don River. The river was an important travel route for Native Americans and early French fur traders. Then the river was important to successive waves of European settlers, who used its power for mills, mainly saw and grist mills.

After founding York (modern Toronto), John Graves Simcoe created a road leading north towards the Lake which later got his name. The road, which would eventually be named Yonge Street, was completed in 1796 and passed straight through a number of present-day suburbs leading up to Lake Simcoe.  Until the land was purchased from the Mississauga Ojibwe in 1797, different people, including Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Algonquin, and French people had called the area home.

North York in 1916 as shown by a historic map
A historic map of Toronto in 1916 showing how sparsely populated North Toronto was. The map’s northern border is around modern-day Lawrence Ave. Image courtesy CC.

After 1797, the land was opened for settlement. Europeans flooded into the area and opened it up for agriculture, which remained the area’s primary industry into the 20th century. In the 19th century the people mostly lived on scattered farmsteads, with small towns like York Mills, Hogg’s Hollow, Don Mills, Newtonbrook, and Willowdale being home to a higher density of people.

The majority of North York’s early history was defined by placid, pastoral living. However, one notable exception to this peaceful existence occurred in 1837, when the Upper Canada Rebellion broke out. Dissatisfied with the elite clique that controlled the administration of Upper Canada and inspired by a similar rebellion in Lower Canada, a loosely organized group attempted to overthrow the government. They were led by William Lyon Mackenzie and their chief grievance was the primacy that was given to British immigrants over immigrants from the United States.

There was a small battle in Toronto between rebels and the government in 1837 and sporadic fighting continued into 1838, when Mackenzie’s Republic of Canada was quashed. Many people from North York participated in the rebellion, both as rebels and as volunteers for the government. This period brought tumult and tragedy to the lives of the people of North York. Some were killed in the fighting, others were imprisoned, hung, or exiled from Canada, either being transported to Tasmania or escaping to the United States.

After the fracas of the Rebellion, the peaceful atmosphere returned to North York. The people returned to their farms, pottery works, and mills. The area remained a rural township into the 20th century. It was not until after the end of the Second World War that the population of North York began to skyrocket. Its proximity to Toronto and open land meant that it was a prime spot for new housing developments. There was also a housing shortage for the returning veterans. A massive amount of development in North York and other suburban areas was completed at this time. This led to the redevelopment of communities like Don Mills into well designed, modern neighbourhoods.

With this development, the rural nature of the region was in the past. The area continued to grow, becoming a city in 1979. In 1998, North York was amalgamated into the City of Toronto.

North York Overview

Located to the north of Toronto, Scarborough, and Etobicoke, and south of Vaughan, Richmond Hill, and Markham, North York is a major district of the City of Toronto.

In the district, the residents enjoy the space and freedom of suburban living, while still living within the provincial capital.

The population in the area is very multicultural. The majority of people in the district are immigrants. There are large communities of Iranians, Philipinos, Russians, and Koreans living in North York.

Real Estate in North York

The real estate market is vigorous and fast paced. There is a wide variety of property types available in North York. Condominiums, single detached houses, row houses and more are all abundant. There are more than 200,000 dwellings in the district.

Away from major intersections like Yonge and Finch or Sheppard and Dufferin, the majority of homes in North York are situated on long curving streets and cul-de-sacs. The houses in North York are spacious and have yards. There are 69,540 single detached houses in the neighbourhoods. In the City of Toronto there are greater than 400,000 houses that have more than three bedrooms. The houses in the district are also fairly new, as more than 50,000 have been built since the year 2000.

If you are interested in learning more about real estate in North York, take a look at our listings. Reach out to one of our representatives to leverage decades of real estate experience from the Canada’s top RE/MAX team. 


North York features world class shopping. It is home to a large number of shopping centres that have thousands of retail spaces, as well as a pedestrian friendly downtown shopping experience in the City Centre.

The City Centre is located on Yonge Street, stretching between Sheppard Avenue and Finch Avenue. The street is lined with tall office and condo buildings. The City Centre is home to many independent businesses, restaurants, and services. Located here is the North York Centre, a large shopping centre that has access to a subway station.

One of the largest shopping malls in Canada is located in North York. The Yorkdale Shopping Centre is more than 1,000,000 square feet and features more than 250 retailers. It hosts 18,000,000 guests a year, who come to browse the mix of luxury shops and brand stores.

However, beyond Yorkdale, North York is home to a large number of other shopping centres. Some of these malls are:

  • Sheridan Mall, a large mall that features many stores, including large department stores like Wal-Mart and Winners.
  • Bayview Village, a mall that is more than 400,000 square feet, and with 110 retailers.
  • Centerpoint Mall, the largest indoor shopping center in the Steeles and Yonge area, is 60,000 square feet and is home to 144 retailers.
  • Yorkgate Mall, the largest mall in the shopping district at Jane and Finch.
  • Jane Finch Mall, across the street from Yorkgate, home to many small shops.
  • Fairview Mall, at nearly 1,000,000 square feet, is one of largest malls in North York. It is conveniently located at the Don Mills subway station, with connections to many TTC and YRT buses available.
  • Shops at Don Mills, is an important outdoor shopping centre that offers many luxury shops, and unique finds.
  • Downsview Merchants’ Market, an indoor flea market that features hundreds of independent vendors, a farmers market, an antique market, and a food court.


There are many ways to relax and have fun in North York. The area hosts some of the premier cultural attractions in the GTA. North York is a highly developed urban area yet its residents still enjoy plenty of greenspace. Some of the largest parks in the Toronto Parks are in the district. What’s more, the City of Toronto operates many recreation centres for the enjoyment of the people of North York.

Of the most important cultural centres in Toronto is the Aga Khan Museum, which is located in North York. It’s one of the first museums in North America dedicated to Islamic art, Iranian history, and Muslim culture. Another cultural attraction in North York is the Ontario Science Centre. This Centre focuses on public education on subjects within the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is focused on public education through the concept of learning through play. Finally, the Black Creek Pioneer Village is an important historical site in the GTA. Here visitors can experience an authentically recreated pioneer village of the 1800s with 40 historic buildings. Guests can see educators dressed in period costumes, demonstrating trades and crafts of the 1800s. There are also rare livestock breeds and heirloom plant stocks from the period.

As mentioned, the Toronto Parks system maintains many parks in North York. Some notable parks in the district include: Edward Gardens, Earl Bales Park (which features a ski hill), Sunnybrook Park, G. Ross Lord Park, West Don Parkland, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, and Downsview Park. With all of these options for experiencing the outdoors, living in North York does not have to mean compromising on access to nature.

Finally, another avenue for exercise and recreation in North York are the community centres run by the City of Toronto. Important community centres in the district include:

North York Schools

There are four school boards administering schools in North York.

The Toronto District School Board, which is headquartered in North York, operates English public schools in the district. There are also Catholic schools in the area, operated by the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

There are two French language school boards in North York, one secular and one Catholic. The secular board is known as Conseil Scolaire Viamonde. Meanwhile, the French Catholic board is called Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir.


Traveling around North York is uncomplicated and convenient, if you can get around the traffic. The most popular method of transportation is driving. However, the close second choice is commuting by public transportation.

Travelling By Car

There are many important roadways in the district. Some of the main streets that travel north to south are: Allen Road, Yonge Street, Bathurst Street, Jane Street, and Bayview Avenue.

Important roads that travel east to west are: Steeles Avenue, Sheppard Avenue, and Finch Avenue.

As for larger road infrastructure, there are two 400 series highways that pass through North York. Highway 401, the busiest and longest highway in Ontario, connects the district to the vital Montreal-Windsor travel corridor. Highway 404, travels north to south, providing access to Toronto to the south and Durham Region and Lake Simcoe to the north.

Public Transit

The Toronto Transit Commission maintains a large number of bus and subway routes in the district. This makes travel throughout Toronto cheap and easy.

The TTC runs two subway routes that pass through North York. The York-University line runs through large sections of the east and west of  the district. Major stations on this line are Yorkdale Station and Finch Station. At Yorkdale, connections can be made to York Regional Transit and GO Transit. At Finch, connections to YRT and GO can be made as well as to Brampton Transit.

The second TTC subway line in the district is the Sheppard Line. One major stop on this line is Leslie Station, which has connections to GO transit and the IKEA shuttle bus. Another is Don Mills Station, which has connections to GO transit and access to Fairview Mall.

Have Questions About Real Estate in North York?

If you are thinking about buying or selling real estate in North York, we here at Frank Leo and Associates would be happy to facilitate your sale.

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