Waterworks: An industrial heritage complex as community catalyst

Commercial, Online Exclusive Feature, Residential / 2023

Waterworks: An industrial heritage complex as community catalyst

August 23, 2023

Waterworks is a mixed-use development in downtown Toronto that rehabilitates, conserves and expands an industrial heritage site by integrating diverse programmes—not only supporting and intensifying the life of its residents, but also the urban experience of the greater community.

The programmes include food-focused retail, a fully serviced YMCA community centre, social wellness facilities, family-oriented dwellings that include affordable housing, and an existing shelter for unhoused youth. This array of facilities and their connectivity aim to break down socioeconomic barriers, helping to catalyse and activate the neighbourhood.

An open approach

The scheme frames the northern edge of Toronto’s oldest public playground, St. Andrew’s Playground, and is anchored by a 1932 City of Toronto Waterworks building which spans the entire city block. The project serves to retain and restore the entirety of the original Art Deco style building.

This design opened up the Waterworks site towards its surrounding context. Several new pedestrian pathways were established within the block, and glazed openings on the east and west façades signal themselves as walkable entrances. By extending the public realm through the building and connecting it to the internal courtyard, the level of pedestrian porosity is increased.

As the existing Waterworks building was built on the site of the former St Andrew’s Market—one of Toronto’s earliest food markets and a bustling commercial centre from 1837—this historic function will be brought back to the present day with the Food Hall. This 500-seater gastronomic hub, expected to be completed in late 2023, will serve the community through a mix of restaurants and food stalls.

The textural surface associated with the heritage building’s original brick and limestone Art Deco façades terminates at a glazed reveal that allows for views to and from the YMCA facility. The second-floor swimming pool and gymnasium overlook the new inner courtyard on the ground floor, bringing natural light to the interior.

Community-focused dwellings

The inner courtyard is surrounded by a U-shaped condo. The upper floors are stepped back for private terraces with views overlooking the park, while deep balconies along the lower levels offer significant outdoor space. Staggered balconies give residents more light and privacy while articulating the façade. Out of the 87 different suite types (ranging from one to three bedrooms), 15 units provide affordable home ownership opportunities to artists in the community.

The Waterworks development complements Eva’s Phoenix, a transitional housing facility for youth designed by LGA Architects. It is located at the north-east corner of the heritage complex, connected by the plaza on the ground floor adjacent to the Food Hall. This connection emphasises the progressive design approach to support all members of the community.  


Project Name

505 Richmond Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Completed (residential)

Completion Date
2022 (residential)

Expected Completion
Late 2023 (Food Hall and amenity spaces)

Gross Floor Area
341,000 square feet

Architecture Firm
Diamond Schmitt

Project Team
Don Schmitt (Principal, Project Architect);
Duncan Bates (Senior Associate, Project Manager);
Patrick Johnson;
Justin Loucks

Construction Manager
Bluescape Construction Management Inc.

Electrical Engineer & Mechanical Engineer
Smith + Anderson

Landscape Architect
Janet Rosenberg and Studio

Structural Engineer
Jablonski & Ast

Heritage Architect
ERA Architects

Interior Designer
Cecconi Simone

Acoustical Engineer
HGC Engineering

Building Envelope

Civil Engineering
Cole Engineering

Elevator Consultant
Soberman Engineering Inc.

Energy Modelling
Footprint (S&A)

ASI Heritage

doublespace photography

Read more stories from FuturArc 2Q 2023: Old is Gold!


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