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Green Meeting Venues

An abandoned brick factory, Evergreen Brick Works has found new life as a sustainable multi-purpose space

By Angela Kryhul

For nearly 100 years, Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works churned out bricks and kiln-fired clay products used to help build Canada in the 20th century: homes, factories and landmarks like the Ontario Legislature Building.

But the metal sheds and brick buildings, which once clung to the edge of a deep clay and shale quarry, fell into disrepair when the factory closed and the site was abandoned in 1984. Luckily, Evergreen, a national charity devoted to greening communities, saw a diamond in the rough and convinced the city of Toronto that it could turn the 40-acre property into a showplace of sustainable community development and design. The result: Evergreen Brick Works.

Now, most of the site’s 16 heritage-designated buildings are being redeveloped as part of a multi-million dollar project with a remarkable sustainability and mixed-use agenda: corporate event and meeting space will co-exist with offices and artists’ studios, a gourmet cafe, garden centre, winter skating rink, children’s nature playground, and arts, crafts and educational activities.

One new building is being added to the historic site: The Centre for Urban Sustainability is a five-storey office building and meeting space, designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum standards, and featuring a 2,850-square-foot atrium.

Other rentable spaces include a cooking classroom, a garden area that doubles as an ice-skating trail in the winter, the Heritage Kiln Building where the original kilns and drying tunnels are located, and the ECO Pavilions—open-sided industrial sheds suitable for large-scale events such as festivals, barbeques and fundraisers. Event planners can rent the entire site for up to 2,000 people.

“This is a fantastic place for anybody who is looking for a sustainability destination and a nature experience within an urban centre,” says event manager Wendy Gamble. “It allows visitors to get back to nature right in the city.”

Venue suppliers must meet strict criteria. For example, audio-visual suppliers must use LED lighting, and caterers are required to recycle and to source locally whenever possible.

The Evergreen Brick Works has received a lot of attention since it was recognized by National Geographic as one of the world’s best geotourism destinations.

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