80 Cooperage St. and 461 Cherry Street
Type: New construction
Size: 82,000 sf (YMCA) and 175,000 sf (The George)
Project Cost: $42 million (The George)
— Waterfront Toronto
— Infrastructure Ontario
— Dundee Kilmer Developments
— George Brown College
Status: Opened in 2016
George Brown College’s ‘The George’ / Cooper Koo Family YMCA is located in the Canary District, part of the massive West Don Lands development which is an extension of the much larger Waterfront Toronto Revitalization undertaking and involves transforming 80 acres of former industrial land into a mixed-use neighbourhood. The project was developed so that it could initially be used to house athletes and host events for the 2015 Pan Am Games. It was then converted to include a 257-unit, 507-bed student residence for George Brown College, a conference centre, retail and a 82,000 square foot community centre equipped with pools, studios, gymnasiums and a fitness centre. In terms of massing, two seven-storey bar buildings linked by a bridge are set atop a two-storey YMCA, with a projection over Front Street East supported by two-storey high columns. The space takes up an entire block on Cherry Street and King East, and holds the largest accessible green roof in Toronto, shared with George Brown College.
Complexity / Collaboration
The development firm Dundee Kilmer Developments (now called Dream) won the bid for the
$514-million contract to build the athlete’s village from Infrastructure Ontario and Waterfront Toronto. The province also invested $195 million into site preparations and other costs, bringing the tab to $709 million. Infrastructure Ontario approached George Brown to see if they were interested in participating in the project. George Brown had a good relationship with Waterfront Toronto.
User interaction / Partnership framework
User-specific entrances ensure that casual visitors cannot access residential floors. The two buildings are designed by seperate architects: ‘The George’ is designed by aA and the Cooper Koo Cherry Street YMCA by MJMA.
Costs / Funding
George Brown bought the residence for $42 million. Krystal Koo and Michael Cooper gave $2 million to name the new Cooper Koo Family YMCA.
The original purpose of the residence — to house athletes — lasted two weeks. With George Brown involved, the building was designed and built to minimize conversion costs and time.
Anne Sado, president of George Brown College, made it her mission to establish a student residence and had started working with developers to find suitable land. Given the cost of land, this wasn’t successful at first. She worked with others to advocate on the college’s behalf and, with the school’s intentions on the table, was able to negotiate a student residence when the city successfully bid for the Pan Ams.
The George is George Brown College’s first student residence. The development shows that an area can serve, temporarily as an Athletes’ Village and be repurposed successfully for other uses. It is cited as a successful example of what a legacy project from the Pan Am Games looks like for the city. The Canary District became a sustainable, mixed use, master-planned community in 2016.