November 28, 2005
by Canadian Architect
International experts in urban planning and cultural revitalization have identified Toronto’s Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works as one of the most exciting and innovative urban projects taking place in the world today. The Strategies for Creative Spaces project is a three-year joint venture between London and Toronto and was created to improve the development of creative industries and maximize their role in the competitiveness of both cities. The organization’s task force is studying 50 cities in more than 75 countries and recently completed its tour of Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York and Toronto.
What makes Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works so exciting is the way in which it blends nature, culture and community, while preserving and utilizing old industrial buildings, turning them into attractions that beautify the city, entice tourists and teach visitors how to better protect the environment,” says Graham Hitchen, Head of Creative London, the London partner for the Strategies for Creative Spaces project. “This project has important lessons for policy makers and others on how major urban centres can turn derelict industrial sites into spaces that bring communities together and help improve the environment while generating revenue for the city.”
Located in Toronto at the Bayview Extension and Pottery Road, Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works will transform derelict industrial buildings into a 120,000-square-foot garden facility and public courtyard with diverse programming such as gardening and woodworking classes, summer camps and training for at-risk youth. Plans for the site also include a Jamie Kennedy restaurant and caf-on-the-green featuring food grown on-site, a weekly organic farmers’ market, event spaces, winter skating, Outward Bound rope courses, YMCA youth training programs, and more. Evergreen was granted permission to redevelop the site by the City of Toronto in 2004.
“It’s a major feather in our cap that Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works had such a positive and powerful impact on the visiting dignitaries,” says Rita Davies, Executive Director, Toronto Culture. “As a member of Strategies for Creative Spaces, we toured amazing sites in leading international cities, but the Brick Works generated a great deal of interest and discussion. People are really excited about the concept of blending nature, culture and community and nowhere is this being done better than in Toronto.
“Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works will be a cultural centre where Torontonians and visitors from across Canada and beyond can experience how nature makes our cities more livable,” said Geoff Cape, Executive Director, Evergreen. “Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works will also act as a natural gateway to the city’s expansive, and currently under-used, trail and ravine system.”
Evergreen Commons at the Brick Works is founded on a self-sustaining business model as various elements of the site such as the restaurant and event spaces will help to sustain it over the long-term.
Strategies for Creative Spaces is a collaborative three-year project between the cities of London and Toronto and is a joint venture between the London Development Agency, the City of Toronto, the Ontario Ministries of Economic Development, Trade and Culture and University of Toronto. Drawing on international best practices identified through a combination of desk and field research, the project will identify optimal strategies for building the necessary infrastructure and environment in which creativity can flourish.
Evergreen motivates people to create and sustain healthy, natural outdoor spaces and gives them the practical tools to be successful through its three core programs: Learning Grounds, Common Grounds (protecting and conserving public open spaces) and Home Grounds (for the home landscape). Community naturalization is a collective effort that includes people from all walks of life in the revitalization of their schools, homes or community and, ultimately, in the environmental, social and economic functioning of their cities.