Diamond Schmitt Architects have released plans for a heritage building in Toronto to be transformed into a vibrant community hub
A large former public works building on an historic downtown Toronto site will be preserved and adapted from its industrial origins in order to provide a full community YMCA centre, condominium apartments and food-focused retail for the rapidly growing residential population. The Waterworks project is named for the former public utility building’s role as a water treatment facility, on a site that previously saw various uses including a police station, library and community hall.
Many features of the elegant two-storey Art Deco structure, built in 1932, will be incorporated into its new incarnation. Central to the scheme is the transformation of a block-long industrial 28,500 sq ft garage with a 45-foot ceiling into a Food Hall, where, in the 19th century, the city’s third largest market once stood. Donald Schmitt, Principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects, said: “We are retaining almost the entirety of the structural fabric and walls for the Food Hall that will open onto the park. The building structure, skylights and ceiling elements, windows and door openings are all being refurbished and will retain much of their original materiality and detail and will define the retail public spaces and their character.”
The Food Hall will open onto St. Andrew’s Playground, an urban green space of mature trees and pedestrian amenities. New public routes through this previously impenetrable block will be established both North-South and East-West, making for new community connections, and an existing vehicular carriageway into the courtyard will become a pedestrian mews with retail shops and a restaurant.
The YMCA will occupy the second and third floors, with extensive physical, social and community facilities devoted to health and wellness. These will include a 25m pool, full gymnasium, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning facilities, and studios for yoga, dance and community meetings, all designed within the constraints of the building. Condominium apartments with unique floor plans configured in a horseshoe-shaped wing will occupy ten floors, including setbacks from the heritage structure to provide terraces and balconies open to the sky. An existing social services agency, Eva’s Phoenix, will remain in the building and a number of the 299 residential units will be operated through a non-profit housing provider.
The project’s developers, MOD Developments Inc. and Woodcliffe Landmark Properties, have a focus on retaining Toronto’s history while creating new facilities, with previous work including preservation of a historic Yonge St. frontage for a condominium tower on St. Joseph Street and a current scheme to incorporate two neoclassical banks into Massey Tower. Central to the idea behind Waterworks is the adaptation of Toronto’s history to create a new landmark destination. Schmitt said of the newly-released plans: “A key design consideration for us was the full heritage restoration of the whole block and the integration of a diverse, urban mix of uses in a balanced way so the ensemble of programming and our architecture is greater than the sum of the parts.”
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