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The evolution of Evergreen Brick Works

From an abandoned brick factory to the stage for a national conversation on the future of cities.

Evergreen Brick Works at dusk. Image: Tom Arban
Image: Tom Arban

Published on November 01, 2018

Evergreen has consistently evolved over the past two-and-a-half decades and will continue in years to come. That is inevitable.

Along with our larger organization’s evolution, Evergreen Brick Works has also shifted from what it once was.

Yesterday

Site tour of the Brick Works during construction. Staff touring the site under construction months before opening. Image: Mel Yu

Where others saw a dilapidated brick factory that leaked toxins into the earth beneath it, Evergreen saw opportunity.

Through a partnership with the City of Toronto and Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Evergreen revitalized the space. But what most people don’t know is that Evergreen originally pictured the Brick Works as a full-scale garden centre. We hosted plant sales here before shovels ever broke ground.

Instead, once the revitalization finished the site flourished as a community centre and showcase for LEED building design. If you ever see mentions of Evergreen Brick Works as an ‘environmental centre’ or a ‘living lab,’ that was its original purpose.

Today

People bustling in the Pavilions during Summer Wednesdays, 2018.The bustling Pavilions during our annual Summer Wednesdays in 2018.

Since the Brick Works opened to the public in 2010, it has grown  to host international events, run award-winning programs and thrive as a social enterprise.

While we may have started the redevelopment with large-scale ambitions, we had no idea what a lively community hub our campus would become. As a demonstration hub for sustainable ideas, we now offer a national platform for others to test, scale and grow.

As a testing ground for scalable solutions, Evergreen Brick Works can almost do it all. Whether it’s the range of public art onsite, our Children’s Garden or tenants like Ripple Farms, all aspects of the site strive to showcase sustainable ideas and inspire others to practice them in their own lives.

Tomorrow

An inside look of the redeveloped Future Cities Centre, August 2018.An inside look at the redeveloped Future Cities Centre. Image: James Morley, A-Frame

But with all great ideas, they are never finished. Evergreen Brick Works continues to evolve and grow as a national hub. Currently, we are redeveloping the historic kiln building into the TD Future Cities Centre. With the redevelopment, Evergreen Brick Works strives towards becoming a carbon-neutral site, not to mention the Centre will also soon serve as a stage for the inaugural Future Cities Canada Summit. 

Years ago, when we first began planning the Brick Works’ future, hosting a national conversation of this scale was merely a dream. This month it becomes a reality.

While we continue to evolve, Evergreen and the Brick Works both maintain their roots. Sustainability, people and their interconnection will always be pillars of every single thing we do.

Just as it was meant to be, Evergreen Brick Works is still a hub that connects diverse communities from both within the GTA and around the world. But through growth, diversity and innovation, this special place has become and continues to act as a demonstration hub for the world to experience sustainable ideas.