Henriquez Partners Architects
Janet Rosenberg & Studio
One of Toronto’s most iconic sites, Westbank purchased Honest Ed’s in 2013. Founded by Ed Mirvish in 1948, Honest Ed's brought people together from all walks of life, creating a community and catalyzing collective memory-making. We began designing Mirvish Village by thinking about how we could live up to that legacy.
Honest Ed’s was beloved for bringing the community together in any and every way possible. A place for festivals, street parties, theatrics, food, crafts, games and a sense of humour, this site has acted as a centre of the Annex, Palmerston, Harbord, and Seaton Village neighbourhoods for over 65 years. The history of these lands is also multi-layered, and has meant many different things to many different people—as a landing pad for waves of Jewish, Italian, Portuguese, Jamaican, and many other immigrants, as an artists’ colony, as a model of entrepreneurial success, and even simply as the place where many young university students bought their first frying pan.
We learned about each of these layers and the community’s priorities for redevelopment via three years of community engagement: dozens of open houses, community meetings, ‘walkshops,’ workshops, and over 30,000 in-person interactions at Markham House, our on-site engagement centre—all in partnership with City Planning and the area residents’ associations. The product is a fine-grained, innovative project that we hope will continue to serve as a centre of community—a living room for the neighbourhood.
In total, 24 heritage buildings will be conserved across the site. Markham Street will be restored, and will be re-landscaped as a pedestrian-first street with vibrant restaurants, boutiques, generous patios, trees, public seating, and a new public park.
Rather than a single monolithic building, the project stiches back together the historical fine-grained streetscapes of Bathurst and Bloor with narrow shopfronts at street level that form the character of the new buildings with varying façade typologies, including low and mid-rise buildings and a series of micro-towers.
At street level there will be new pedestrian laneways and public spaces, and, anchoring the site, a public market featuring the best of Ontario’s local food entrepreneurs, artisans and daily live music. Inspired by the bazaar-like quality of Honest Ed’s, we hope that this market becomes a gathering place and living room for all Torontonians. And to extend the entrepreneurial legacy of the site, Honest Ed’s Alley will feature a dedicated micro-retail incubator, developed in partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation.
Designed to be a truly complete community of purpose-built rental housing, more than 10% of the units will be deeply affordable. Markham Street will host a new daycare with outdoor playspace, a bike hub with dedicated bike valet, and public art installations curated in partnership with David Mirvish.
Mirvish Village will also be one of the most sustainable new developments in the City of Toronto, targeting up to 50% lower GHG emissions than typical buildings, along with the LEED Platinum Neighbourhood and TGS Tier II standards. It will host a block-scale neighbourhood energy system that will provide reliable and renewable heating, cooling, and power to the area. By expanding beyond the building scale, this energy system will demonstrate leadership in sustainability and set a new precedent for intelligent city-building.
Each one of these components could stand alone as precedent-setting for the City of Toronto, but together, they provide the building blocks for a project that we hope sets the standard for city-building and lives up to the legacy of Ed Mirvish.