Red Door Shelter reopens in Toronto condo building

Designed by The Architect Builders Collaborative and OfficeArchitecture, the Red Door Shelter is the first Toronto shelter to be integrated in a private condo building.

Courtesy OfficeArchitecture

Red Door Family Shelter, one of Toronto’s oldest operating family shelters, reopened its doors last week. The innovative shelter, integrated into a private residential condo building at its original location on the corner of Booth Avenue and Queen Street East in Leslieville, is now purpose-built and will house families in more than 100 beds each night.

In May 2015, City Council approved the purchase of 20,000 square feet of space – the shelter portion of the total space in the new building — for $7.4 million. The City of Toronto, Harhay Development and the Red Door Family Shelter participated in a unique arrangement that saw the redevelopment of the original church site into condos, with the Red Door Shelter occupying four floors. This is the first condo development in Toronto to incorporate a shelter into a private residential development. The City owns the shelter property, provides funding for operating costs and is leasing it back to the Red Door for a nominal fee. During the redevelopment, the Red Door Family Shelter leased 1430 Gerrard St. E. from the City, where they operated their emergency shelter.

The seven-storey mixed-used building was designed by OfficeArchitecture, and the interior fit-out of the shelter was completed by The Architect Builders Collaborative (TABC).

Family bedroom. Courtesy City of Toronto

The new Red Door provides private bedrooms and bathrooms to families and enhanced facilities including an outdoor children’s play area, a dedicated food bank, a communal dining and social area and a commercial kitchen. The family shelter is woven into the fabric of the Leslieville community, with Red Door families supported by local community and health centres, schools and other local services.

“The challenge was how to bring a feeling of warm, welcoming, and calm to a very harsh, tough building within a tight budget,” writes TABC. “The key is to understand which areas and items should draw our attention, which should recede into the background, and thus where to focus design and construction resources.”

Family dining area. Courtesy City of Toronto

“This building makes manifest the idea that inter-institutional collaborations do enable public and private sector entities to realize their goals for urban development projects that neither could achieve on their own,” writes OfficeArchitecture. “In particular, innovative mixed- use development partnerships can enhance access to scarce development sites, augment project funding, generate community support for controversial projects, and share and mitigate project risks between the partners.”

Courtesy City of Toronto

Since 1982, Red Door Family Shelter has provided emergency shelter and support for women and children affected by intimate partner abuse, families experiencing a housing crisis and refugee claimants. The Red Door Family Shelter, which takes its name from the red front door of the former church that signaled a safe haven, provides support to families every year. The average length of stay for shelter residents is approximately five months.