Don Valley Brickworks gets a new lease on life

Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works is about to get a facelift.

On Monday, Dec. 8, ground was broken on a project that will see the construction of Evergreen Brick Works. The new Brick Works will be an environmental and community centre built on an old quarry and industrial site.

Nate Habermeyer, a public relations representative for Evergreen, says the project aims to “revitaliz(e) the buildings while focusing on heritage and ecological sustainability.”

For those living in the downtown centre of Toronto, finding places to enjoy nature may be difficult. Evergreen Brick Works aims to alleviate this problem by building a community park and garden.

“(It is) designed for people to experience the benefits of nature first-hand … (and it) will give visitors a renewed sense of place and inspire them to become active participants in shaping a more sustainable future,” Habermeyer said.

The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, Mayor David Miller and students of Cassandra Public School, among others. They planted trees in a gesture to symbolize the beginning of the rejuvenation of the Don Valley Brick Works.

Habermeyer is quick to point out this project is committed to being as ecologically-friendly as possible.

“It is being designed to be the most energy and resource efficient building of its kind in Canada,” he said.

Evergreen will renovate the existing buildings onsite, which are former brick factories.
Among the new facilities are the Brick Works Heritage Centre, ” a 52,000-square-foot space that will preserve and celebrate the factory’s industrial heritage,” and the Evergreen Marché, where “visitors (can) discover the richness of food through gardening and cooking experiences and will explore the cultural and culinary diversity of local agriculture.”

The only new structure Evergreen plans to build is the Centre for Urban Sustainability, which Habermeyer describes as “the economic and intellectual heart of the complex.”

The Brick Works will also feature a garden maintained by schools and community members. The plants grown in the garden will also be for sale.

Children will be able to play in the Nature Playground, an area with “tunnels, secret passageways, a garden maze, an adventure zone, a challenge course and tree house.”

Early last week, Evergreen signed a new lease with the City of Toronto and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). The new deal is for 21 years, less a day and will cost $1, plus GST, per year.

The new Evergreen Brick Works has an estimated cost of $55 million and is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2010.