For years the City-owned Waterworks Building at 505 Richmond St. W. has sat vacant, an Art Deco hidden gem awaiting a developer with vision. It found two in MOD Developments and Woodcliffe Landmark Properties, which recently revealed plans for a mixed-use revamp of the Waterworks Building.

The 1932 industrial edifice will be transformed into a 13-storey community hub with a 299-unit condo building added on top and a food hall inspired by ones the development team visited in New York, Amsterdam and Madrid. There will also be restaurants and patios along Richmond, plus a full-service YMCA on floors two and three of the new building. Artscape will operate 15 affordable housing units for low-income families.

The project is designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, with ERA Architects serving as heritage consultant, interior design by Cecconi Simone and landscape by Janet Rosenberg & Studio.

The repurposed industrial space will be made more porous, with bricked-in windows reopened and boarded-up skylights reglazed. The new building will provide a connection from Richmond through to St. Andrews Playground to the south, which will be expanded 25 per cent as part of the redevelopment.

“This should set a precedent for how we do development in our city,” said local councillor Joe Cressy, who emceed an on-site event Sept. 10 to preview the project.

waterworks-building-team From left to right: President & CEO of Build Toronto Bill Bryck, CEO of MOD Developments Gary Switzer, Mayor John Tory, Councillor Joe Cressy, President and CEO of Woodcliffe Landmark Properties Eve Lewis, President of MOD Developments Noorez Lalani, COO of Artscape LoriAnn Girvan, Board Chair, YMCA of Greater Toronto Diane Sinhuber. Photo credit Ryan Emberley.

Cressy noted the development partners have come together to build a neighbourhood, not just another condo.

This is what city building is all about.

MOD is the developer behind Massey Tower and Five St. Joseph; Woodcliffe redeveloped heritage properties such as The Shops of Summerhill and Market Street. They acquired the 1.3-acre site from Build Toronto.

The Waterworks redevelopment will be a welcome addition to a rapidly expanding area. Councillor Cressy noted the King-Spadina node had a population of 945 in 1996; 20 years later it’s 30,000 and rising fast. But no new community centre or parks have been added in that time. “If you’re going to build a community,” he said, “social infrastructure is critical, particularly if you want families to live downtown.”

Mayor John Tory, who dropped by the project preview, praised the plans. “This is a beacon for a different way of doing things.”