YWCA Elm Centre

Toronto, Ontario

YWCA Toronto and Wigwamen Inc.

2009 to 2011


The YWCA Elm Centre is one of the largest social housing projects to be developed in downtown Toronto in the last 10 years. The Centre combines new administrative offices for YWCA Toronto – housed in a heritage structure built as a “House of Industry” in 1848 – with two new residential communities comprising 300 new affordable rental housing units.

This two-building complex is home to the residential, administrative and community service facilities for YWCA Toronto. The Jean Tweed Centre, which works with women facing substance abuse, and Wigwamen Inc., an aboriginal housing development organization, are partners in the project. The complex is organized around an internal courtyard and provides offices, meeting and multi-purpose rooms, and community services for the three organizations, as well as Wigwamen’s Economic Development Centre, and a YWCA-run restaurant and retail store. A playground for the children of all residents is also nestled within the courtyard. The residential floors of the complex contain 300 residential units for YWCA Toronto and Wigwamen tenants.

The project has incorporated a number of Green Building strategies and systems, as found and referenced in the CAGBC’s LEED Rating System. In particular, energy-efficiency and reduced life-cycle costs were targeted. The building design includes an improved thermal building envelope, central ventilation energy recovery, radiant heating and cooling, and a ground source heat pump system. YWCA Elm Centre is designed to LEED Silver criteria.

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Housing is a core focus of our business. We design innovative and adaptable buildings and master plans that respond to the immediate and future housing needs of diverse communities and all levels of income. We have a history of initiating and realizing housing projects that fill critical gaps in the market, and that are sensitive and adaptable to evolving cultures and contexts.
We help institutions fulfill their cultural mandate, and remain closely connected within their community, during periods of economic and social change. We take a comprehensive approach to the design, restoration and funding of public buildings and spaces, facilitating cultural partnerships and making efficient and productive use of space and resources.
We offer a full range of architecture, interior design, programming and construction management services for commercial and retail projects, especially within mixed-use developments. Our flexible designs focus on user experience and the creation of environments that reflect the culture and identity of our clients.
We prepare comprehensive plans for new communities ranging from high-density urban infill projects in areas subject to intensification, through to responsible greenfield development. Starting with an assessment of the local environment, we develop plans and designs that build on the history of the site, while identifying opportunities for sustainable growth.
We have a long history of planning and designing the public realm of cities, including streets, building facades, public places, the space between buildings and open spaces. Our team has pioneered significant aspects of the “complete streets” concept, demonstrated through landmark projects like the St. George Street Revitalization, the Bloor Street Transformation and the Six Point Interchange Reconstruction.