What’s old is new at one of Toronto’s most celebrated developments. Housed in a beautifully restored heritage industrial building, Waterworks Food Hall (499 Richmond St. W) will open for business in June, offering a European-style food hall that’s unlike anything the city has truly seen before.

In short, it’s a one-stop shop to satisfy diverse culinary cravings and for a dose of design inspiration.

The sprawling, 55,000 sq. ft. building was first constructed in 1932 as the city’s waterworks facility and featured an Art Deco design. It was thoughtfully restored by Woodcliffe Landmark Properties, in collaboration with award-winning architectural firms Diamond Schmitt, ERA Architects, and Steven Fong Architects. It’s part of the larger Waterworks mixed-use development in partnership with MOD Developments – a buzzed-about new addition to the city’s King West neighbourhood.

With its stand-alone space, long-time Toronto staple Susur Lee’s celebrated Lee restaurant has already moved in. The famed Southeast Asian/French fusion restaurant relocated from its King West spot last summer. In total, Waterworks Food Hall brings 20 different food stalls, offering culinary favourites from around the world. This includes everything from eats from Aburi Sushi, Harry’s Charbroiled, and Musoshin Ramen, to beverage offerings from Grape Witches, Civil Works, and Boxcar Social. The sober set will appreciate the SOBR Market, downtown Toronto’s first non-alcoholic bottle shop and another stand-alone space.

Toronto’s heavy-hitting design professionals, award-winning firms Cecconi Simone, Design Agency, and Futurestudio, were tasked with breathing new life into the space’s storied interiors. Meanwhile, the original artwork that fills the space is curated by Studio Ninth. Most recently, the space functioned as a blank canvass of an event venue for some of Toronto’s most coveted events, including the hot-ticket opening party for Toronto’s Luminato Festival.

Water Works Photo by Doublespace Photography

“We are committed to preserving and revitalizing architectural landmarks that enhance the attraction and livability of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, and we are so pleased to be opening the Waterworks Food Hall in the King West community,” says Eve Lewis, President and CEO of Woodcliffe Landmark Properties. She calls the project a “true labour of love” for her team, who are also behind the heritage restoration of the city’s famous Gooderham Flatiron Building, the revamp of the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood’s Market Street, and the historic North Toronto Station (now the Summerhill LCBO).

The Waterworks restoration saw the preservation of many of the original historical and Art Deco details. The massive original pitched ceiling embedded with oversized skylights and new 29-foot tall windows flood the space with natural light, recalling its industrial origins. Reclaimed wood from the original floor was used to create a mosaic spanning the height of the main stairwell wall. The sprawling interior mezzanines, event spaces, and food kiosks designed by Futurestudio, Design Agency, and Cecconi Simone layer individual identity within the visually cohesive hall.

Perhaps most impressive is the 15-foot deep, 14,000 sf basement excavation beneath the building to house all back-of-house amenities, washrooms, delivery, dish, storage and garbage areas, tucked discreetly out of sight.

“We believe beautiful, heritage-designed spaces can transform the neighbourhoods they are a part of and elevate our city,” says Lewis. “Every detail in the hall, from the hidden courtyard and soaring ceilings, to the beautifully restored mezzanine event spaces and the floor-to-ceiling, south-facing windows, has been meticulously executed to reflect our vision of creating an experience unlike anything else in Toronto. We hope that Waterworks Food Hall becomes a community gathering spot that is the heart and soul of King West for decades to come.”

Water Works Lee Restaurant interior.

The project was certainly not one that materialized overnight – it’s the product of eight years of extensive research and travel to some 50 global food halls. Lewis, her partners from MOD Development and their extended team, visited renowned food halls in London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Madrid, New York, and beyond to ensure they were creating something more richly layered than simply a collection of restaurants and food stalls.

Currently, vendors include Aburi Sushi, a new flame-seared Temaki (hand-roll) sushi concept from founder Seigo Nakamura of Aburi Restaurants (Michelin-starred Aburi Hana, Michelin-recommended Miku Vancouver); handmade Jewish deli and barbecue favourites from Dave’s Genuine Deli, gourmet flame-grilled burgers from Harry’s Charbroiled (Michelin-starred Quetzal, Bar Isabel, Bar Raval); traditional Turkish coffee and treats from Liu Loqum; hearty handmade ramen from Kyoto-founded Musoshin Ramen; Mississauga favourite Karak, with one-of-a-kind Pakistani fusion; The Arepa Republic offering Venezuelan dishes, and – a quick crowd-pleaser come summer – unique artisanal ice cream from Scooped By Demetres.

When it comes to libations, Boxcar Social – already known in the city for its handful of locations – will operate the main bar, serving up coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages, including a Waterworks x Burdock beer. Toronto-based Grape Witches will helm a natural wine bar and bottle shop, offering a signature selection of approachable, biodynamic wines. Civil Works (from Nick Kennedy of Civil Liberties, recently named one of North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024 by the 50 Best organization) will create innovative cocktails from the mezzanine cocktail bar. The venue will also feature 12,000 sq. ft. of private event spaces.

Additional vendors will be announced soon.

An innovative ordering platform allows guests to order seamlessly from multiple vendors during a single transaction, receiving an alert when dishes are ready for pickup, while drinks are delivered directly to them. Making life simpler for Toronto’s driver’s (a rare concept in Toronto), the building features 75 underground parking spots. Of course, those who live in the development need only walk a few steps to access the goodness-packed facility. The development features a shiny new condo building with 290 condo units and a 60,000 sq. ft. YMCA facility.