In October, MOD Developments and Woodcliffe Propertieslaunch event saw the long vacant Waterworks Building become part of Toronto's King West scene for an evening. The evening offered a preview of the redevelopment to come, which will see the 2-storey Art Deco building become a multi-use community hub, while an 11-storey addition will add both affordable and market-rate residences above. 

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittA rendering of the new Waterworks Building, image courtesy of MOD / Woodcliffe

Designed by Toronto's Diamond Schmitt Architects, the redevelopment will see the heritage-designated structure retained to house a new food hall and retail scape. As seen during the launch, the building's expansive quasi-industrial interior is well suited to become a food hall, boasting an open space—brightened by skylights—that facilitates the market experience. Along with street-facing retail on Richmond, the food hall will introduce a new amenity to the neighbourhood, while the new structure above will house a YMCA, and a new space for Eva's Initiatives for Homeless Youth, as well as 15 Artscape-managed affordable homes for artists. 

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittAn overview of the mix of uses, image via submission to the City of Toronto

As Diamond Schmitt co-founder Donald Schmitt explains, the building's heritage interior will be instrumental in fostering a quality street-level public experience. "The building structure, skylights and ceiling elements, windows and door openings are all being refurbished but will retain much of their original materiality and detail," Schmitt notes. "This will define the retail public spaces and their character." 

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittThe space boasts high ceilings and natural light, image courtesy of MOD / Woodcliffe

Completed in 1932, the structure was built to spur economic activity during the Great Depression, coming online as one of the City's numerous 1930s investments in infrastructure and public works. Designed by then City Architect J.J Woolnough, the structure—now considered a neighbourhood landmark by City Planning—actually replaced a series of food markets dating back to the mid-19th century. 

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittThe 1873 market building, image via Toronto Archives

While the development will bring renewed prominence to the building's architectural quality, it's the older market halls that inspire the new programming. For the better part of a century prior to the Waterworks Building's completion, the site was home to a succession of markets. While the site's first market building was completed in 1850, a larger Renaissance Revival structure expanded actives in 1873. However, the early decades of the 20th gradually saw market space reduced as the neighbourhood—and the city's socio-economic structure—changed. By 1932, the vacant structure was demolished, making way for the current building. 

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittThe existing building, image via Google Maps

Now, the new facility will re-incorporate the market uses into what is once again an active and densely populated urban neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the 15 Artscape-managed affordable units (which are designated for local artists and their families) will be joined by 299 market-priced condominiums. Ranging in size from 450 ft² to 2,647 ft², the 299 condominium suites are a mix of 189 (63%) one-bedroom and 110 (37%) two-bedroom units. (A preview of the Cecconi Simone-appointed interiors is available in our previous story).  

The project's pedestrian-oriented ground floor will also open new access points to St. Andrew's Park, which neighbours the site to the south. Combining the organic spillover from the new retail and recreation facility with greater connectivity, the park is well placed to become a more vibrant and animated part of Toronto's urban core following the project's completion. 

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittA rendering of the new food hall, image courtesy of MOD / Woodcliffe

Taken together, the project's combined elements reflect Toronto's growing density—after all, most of the GFA is devoted to condos—as well as a growing tendency towards mixed-use and mixed-income programming, and a marketable appreciation for history and heritage. Indeed, with its new food hall and restored architecture, the Waterworks Building will certainly reflect Toronto's history. But how will it reflect the present?

Waterworks Building Redevelopment, Toronto, by MOD, Woodcliffe, Diamond SchmittThe hall during the launch event, image courtesy of MOD / Woodcliffe

The quality of space and fine-grained, experiential retail program offered are poised to be attractive urban amenities, and the experience of 'being there' is likely to be a good one. Nonetheless, as argued last month, there's a certain risk in adopting too much of King West's entertainment and experience-driven character. One-of-a-kind "artisanal" food stands make for a fun and engaging place to experience, but the beauty of a good food market is also in providing the basics, both in groceries and quotidian experience. Through its programming, the project will make the neighbourhood a better place to be, and—hopefully—also a better place to live. 

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We will keep you updated as more information becomes available, and the start of construction for the project—which is already approved—nears. In the meantime, make sure to check out our dataBase file, linked below, to learn more. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below, or join the conversation in our Forum.