In the 19th and 20th century, North America was booming with industrial activity. Millions of people worked in factories and warehouses across Canada and the United States and many of these buildings can still be found in our cities, towns and rural regions. But with the proliferation of cheaper manufacturing alternatives in Asia and in Latin America, many of these once bustling and robust structures stand empty and abandoned, slowly decaying from neglect.
We can, however, breathe new life into these spaces. Not only are they rich with history and character, preserving and upgrading existing structures rather than demolishing and shipping the waste to landfill is one of the greenest, most sustainable steps we can take as city builders. On top of that – people love them! Our experience with adaptive reuse in Toronto has taught us that whether it is a condo, office space, or retail storefront, units in repurposed industrial buildings are in great demand.
Here are some examples of what well-executed adaptive reuse looks like:
Bata Shoe Factory
The adaptive reuse of Bata’s former shoe factory in the Town of Batawa is the centrepiece of a vision to transform the former industrial company town into a new model for rural sustainable development. Residential apartments, retail and community uses occupy the original structure, now enhanced with large windows, new balconies and a welcoming lobby, reestablishing what was once the centre of Batawa as a destination.
Size 85,400 sf
Programme This project includes 47 rental residential units, retail and commercial spaces, daycare and an event space in five storeys as well as surface parking and a rooftop terrace.
Toy Factory Lofts
The Toy Factory Lofts is an industrial building in Toronto’s Liberty Village that was converted into a mix of commercial offices, residences and live/work spaces. The Toy Factory Lofts project involved a strategic combination of renovations, additions, demolition and new construction that integrated components of the historic building design with innovative contemporary features.
Size 2.23 acres
Programme Renovations and additions to an existing industrial building including 215 live/work units, commercial space, landscaped terraces, and 220 parking spaces in a new above-grade structure.
Originally built in 1898 as a wine warehouse, 60 Atlantic has been repurposed as a three-storey commercial building and urban catalyst for area growth, with a new Corten steel and glass addition that makes the building both accessible and aesthetically striking. The focus of the building is establishing urban connectivity — its restoration and establishment of value through creative and contemporary intervention demonstrate that heritage is not limited to preservation, but can also reassert relevance.
Size 43,000 sf
Programme Conversion of a two-storey heritage structure into a three-storey mixed-use building including commercial and office interiors, food and beverage outlets and a sunken landscaped terrace.
The Travel Centre
Intended as a public window to Flight Centre’s expanded brand offering, The Travel Centre houses not only a new kind of retail store, but also the workplace for Flight Centre’s customer-facing staff as well as a bespoke event space and intimate library. This experiential retail space redefines how we make travel choices, allowing individuals to interact with the brand in new and meaningful ways.
Size 10,000 sf
Programme A multi-purpose showroom, event space and office to showcase the breadth of the Flight Centre brand in a high-exposure location within a heritage-designated former garment factory building.
A vacant 125-year-old factory building of heavy timber and masonry was restored and thoughtfully transformed into 120 residential lofts at, what was then, the periphery of downtown Toronto. The restoration of this under-used site demonstrates the power of renewal, signaling change for an entire urban neighbourhood’s contemporary reinvention.
Size 229,000 sf
Programme Conversion of a five-storey factory structure into 120 residential lofts and amenity space; two levels of underground parking in the existing basement; gazebos and roof terraces for the penthouse suites; and a common multi-purpose room, fitness centre, auxiliary lounges and outdoor patio on the roof.
299 Queen Street West
An iconic heritage building repurposed as the headquarters of the CHUM television empire, 299 Queen Street West served as both a content-producing centre for multiple channels and a social hub for fans and viewers. From the content it produced to the parties held outside its doors, the revitalization of 299 Queen Street West integrated a symbol of the past with a vibrant contemporary context.
Size 130,600 sf
Programme Facilities for television broadcast and production, and restoration of the exterior façades.
In stark contrast to the widely accepted design principle of the democratization of light, Stereo D is a 3D conversion studio with open work spaces that need to be nearly dark to facilitate rendering. Utilizing the industrial bones of the former Canada Bread Factory, cool, comfortable communal spaces were created to help staff decompress, reconnect and recharge their creativity.
Size 42,900 sf
Programme Open workplace, lounge areas, private offices, viewing rooms, meeting rooms and two theatres.
Billboard, showroom, service facility and office - the BMW Toronto flagship showroom blurs the line between its functions, creating a striking landmark building on the skyline of the heavily-traveled Don Valley Parkway. An adaptive reuse of a 1950s office and industrial building, BMW Toronto demonstrates how an older urban artifact can successfully be reinvigorated and reintegrated as a beacon of contemporary design, thought and consumer appetites.
Size 107,000 sf
Programme Renovated six-storey building with sales and office space and a new two-storey addition for automotive service and parts.