Built to Last: What’s Next for Toronto’s Waterworks Building

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Built to Last: What’s Next for Toronto’s Waterworks Building

There’s a particular moment when people first step into the main hall at 505 Richmond St. W. It’s an expression of surprise, mixed with awe. With its vaulted ceilings, sweeping skylights and masterful art deco detailing, it’s hard to imagine a building with more development potential than this.

No easy feat for Build Toronto, the City’s arms-length real estate corporation, that acquired the property in 2012. Since then, Build Toronto has actively worked to find a suitable fit for the project. Its objective: to come up with an innovative plan that integrates the community, creates publicly accessibly private space and respects the rich heritage and architecture of the building. No pressure.

On September 24, 2015, Build Toronto partnered with NXT City to host the awards ceremony for our annual public space competition. Over 600 city builders gathered together to celebrate bold, visionary ideas for public spaces from Toronto’s next wave of talent. For one evening, the event brought the main hall to life with artist installations, drinks and samplings from local restaurants.

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It’s fitting that the site is so rich in history, particularly with respect to public space. From 1837 through the early 1900s, the site was home to a vibrant public market serving the city’s west end and the third public market for the City. The adjacent St. Andrew’s Playground, now a hotspot for King West’s dog owners, is also the city’s first-ever designated playground. In 1932, the market was torn down to build the Water Works building, where it stands to this day.

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Throughout the evening at NXT City Night, the venue dominated conversation. It’s events like these that have helped the public imagine what’s possible for underutilized properties like 505.

“Activating this raw space with NXT City allowed us to showcase the excitement and creativity that we planned to bring to the site with a new development partner,” says Salima Rawji, Development Director at Build Toronto.

It’s this collaborative, inclusive approach to city-building that has defined Build Toronto’s success. By bringing together community groups, City Councillors, members of the public and other stakeholders, this due diligence ensures that developments aren’t just about built form, but about enhancing and shaping the fabric of our neighbourhoods.

Build Toronto’s strategic vision has now translated into what is now one of Toronto’s most talked-about and anticipated developments. In September of 2016, MOD Developments and Woodcliffe Landmark Properties unveiled the project; a multi-use community-focused development.

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With ERA and Diamond Schmitt Architects at the design helm, the project will retain its industrial façade and architectural character. To add to the roster of the already rich culinary area, the main hall will be transformed into a modern food hall. The development will also include nearly 300 new residences, a brand new YMCA, and affordable live-work spaces for artists, managed by Artscape. A shelter for homeless youth will also reside next door. “We’re proud of the momentum the project has garnered,” says Natalie Pasternak, Build Toronto’s Manager of Communications and Stakeholder Relations. “The active spaces will invite, inspire and integrate into the community.”

As we await the transformation of 505 Richmond, NXT City is proud to have contributed – even in a minute way – to the excitement around the development. This year, Build Toronto returns as a supporting partner of NXT City. We’re immensely proud to be teaming up with an organization that believes in respecting a neighbourhood’s past in order to shape its future.

Here’s to many more.