Sometimes called creative reuse, adaptive reuse is a growing trend in architecture, placemaking, and urbanism.
This is good news! It is critical that older, developed cities like Toronto embrace adaptive reuse.
Why Is Adaptive Reuse Important?
Adaptive reuse is often used to turn old factories into lofts or office buildings, but the practice can be applied to any form of infrastructure. This process is important because it preserves our history while embracing growth and creating new opportunity.
Even more important, adaptive reuse is significantly more sustainable than creating new structures from scratch. It keeps unnecessary waste out of landfills and limits unnecessary energy use from creating new materials.
There are several great examples of adaptive reuse in Toronto, from ongoing revitalization projects like Market Street to already finished transformations like the Toy Factory Lofts. There are hundreds of similar projects going on in different cities, but these Toronto examples show how fruitful adaptive reuse can be.
Examples of Adaptive Reuse in Toronto
Located at the heart of Toronto’s massive ravine system, the Evergreen Brickworks is a series of buildings created to accommodate different brick-making techniques and levels of demand. The Brickworks were eventually abandoned, leaving behind empty shells in place of once busy factories and seriously contaminated soil.
By renovating these buildings, adding new, elevated structures (flooding is a major concern for most of the area), and creating a network of bridges between buildings, architects gave this old land new life. Its only new structure serves as Evergreen’s head office, and the old factory has become a thriving community centre hosting workshops, tours, festivals, and other events.
Toy Factory Lofts
Built in the early 1900’s, this building originally served as Irwin Toy Company Factory in an industrial zone west of downtown that has undergone a dramatic revitalization as Liberty Village.
Completed in 2008, this award-winning example of adaptive reuse preserved the factory’s unique attributes and converted the space into a combination of office and live/work units. The revitalized building is also home to Balzac’s Coffee and the Liberty Village BIA.
North Toronto Station
Formerly known as Summerhill CPR Station, this building first opened in 1916. In 1930, after struggles created by the Great Depression and the growth of Union Station, North Toronto Station closed its doors. Brewers’ Retail moved in a year later, and the LCBO started renting space there in 1940. For many years they boarded up most of the space and let the building deteriorate.
In fall 2000, revitalizing of the space began. It was restored and a new entrance was built along with some retail stores underneath the railway bridge. In 2003 the building re-opened, primarily featuring one of the city’s largest LCBO’s. Thanks to adaptive reuse, this building’s clock tower still stands tall and proud on Yonge Street and will for many years to come.
Queen’s Quay Terminal
The Queen’s Quay Terminal, covering a large section of Toronto’s waterfront, is one of the largest adaptive reuse projects Toronto’s ever taken on. For many years this area, though beautiful, has remained largely ignored. The revitalization involves completely rebuilding the streets to incorporate more businesses and become more pedestrian friendly.
This particular revitalization project involves many steps, including an overhaul of local TTC systems, new sidewalks and increased parking so visitors can more easily enjoy the neighbourhood. It’s one of many projects Toronto’s undergoing right now to capitalize on the lake’s beauty and increase tourism.
Located in downtown Toronto, 401 Richmond began its life as a tin can factory operated by the Macdonald Manufacturing company. The building went through several different owners over the decades until Margaret Zeidler took over the crumbling walls in 1994.
Margaret transformed the building into a thriving cultural center first with intense renovations and then by carefully selecting the right tenants. Ideal tenants for the space are non-profits and companies with a double—or triple—bottom line. The building now hosts a large community of artists with twelve art galleries, thirty art studios and several offices belonging to creative professionals, and a green roof, showing just how drastic change can be.
Running north-south from Front Street to The Esplanade, this road boasted several ageing buildings for many decades. With cracking sidewalks and ancient buildings, Market Street was a dead zone deep in Toronto’s core for years.
Woodcliffe Properties bought up much of Market Street and committed to revitalizing its many historical buildings and half of the road, while the city committed to the other half. Once the street became walkable and the historic sites liveable, they rented the space out to restaurants, cafes and other small businesses, creating the cultural hub Market Street always should have been.
The Gardiner Green Ribbon
Although it’s still in the proposal stage, the Green Ribbon could become one of the largest examples of adaptive reuse in Toronto. The Green Ribbon proposes creating seven kilometres of green roof over the existing elevated Gardiner Expressway, keeping the highway intact and providing Toronto with new recreational parkland for pedestrians and cyclists. Inserting eighty acres of green roof in the city centre will reduce the heat island effect, create a sustainable environment and generate clean energy through the use of photovoltaics.
This creative adaptive reuse of infrastructure that has suffered decades of neglect will enhance vehicular and pedestrian safety, protect a vital transportation artery and retain the existing structure for future reuse in a post-automobile era. If you’d like to help make the Green Ribbon a reality, get in touch, or click here join our newsletter.