The site that housed Toronto’s St. Andrew’s Market in the 19th century—an early counterpart to St. Lawrence and St. Patrick's Markets—once again fed and welcomed the public on Thursday night. It was a one-night engagement being held to unveil the sales centre for MOD and Woodcliffe’s joint redevelopment of the heritage Waterworks building that currently sits on the site. But Diamond Schmitt Architects’ plan for the site would turn a version of this experience into a King West neighbourhood staple, converting part of the Waterworks into a food hall and building a condominium development atop this base.
The site was sold by City agency Build Toronto to the developers in part on the condition that a YMCA and youth services centre be included in the final development. The food hall, which borders St. Andrew's Playground and Park to its south, will have many of its bricked-in openings filled with windows and doors to restore a connection on that axis. Diamond Schmitt Architects’ current plans indicate that art deco structures currently on the site will be stitched together to provide retail spaces, social services, and parking entrances. Atop the existing building, a U-shaped residential tower is set to reach 13 storeys.
The operatic Cecconi Simone-designed sales centre, housed at the heart of the Waterworks complex, emphasizes the building’s industrial heritage. Large-scale photography juxtaposes the building’s heavy brick walls with industrial fittings. Indeed, all the sample rooms suggest that heft, as a metaphor for industry, will coexist with wood and composite stone surfaces in the residential spaces. A trompe l'oeil in the sample kitchen and bathrooms appeared to extend these spaces into the unfinished hall, with its concrete floors and metal gussets.
The actual residential spaces do not exist yet. The heritage structure that houses the sales centre will eventually serve another function. In that respect, the temporary food hall offered a better preview of the project’s architectural potential. It is an elongated, L-shaped space that doubles in width along its western third. At present, the area’s gabled skylights are panelled over and most of its exterior openings are filled with bricks. By day, it is nevertheless a bright space that, in its current, empty iteration, dwarfs occupants. At night, however, the block-length room appears to have a more intimate scale; lights strung from its structure play up its civic heritage.
Renderings shown by the developers and Diamond Schmitt Architects suggest that the catering tables used at the unveiling, which showcased local food purveyors such as Susur Lee and Gusto, will be replaced with permanent stands. How those structures fill the space and affect its long sightlines remains to be seen. This is a building with great bones that still demands tremendous sensitivity to not become an adult amusement park. It could too easily go all King West: another large space with small bites, a DJ booth, and ice sculptures. (All of those items were present on Thursday night.) In that respect, the sales centre, with its juxtaposition of human-scale furnishings and industrial-scaled spaces, offered a more promising look at the project.
At its best, the Waterworks development can represent of the King West area’s past and present—a nod to history in an area that can feel like an overly polished playground for young professionals. The project is not just a condominium, but an attempt to restructure a neighbourhood by reframing access to the adjacent park and adding civic services. The development is still private space in a city where public facilities are increasingly scarce, but it nonetheless aims to become a part of Toronto’s civic infrastructure.
UrbanToronto's database file for the project, linked below, includes more information and several renderings, while our associated Forum thread includes many more recent photos. You can give your input by getting in on the conversation in that thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.