PDA is doing work for the new YWCA building in Downtown Toronto! The Elm Centre has 300 affordable apartments for single low-income women, women with children, women living with mental health and addiction issues and families of Aboriginal ancestry.

In December 2011 the YWCA welcomed their first tenants into the brand new innovative residential community on Elm Street and Elizabeth Street. The need for housing in Toronto is pressing. According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average price for a home in the 416 is close to half a million dollars. The average monthly rental price for a one bedroom apartment in Toronto is $926.

And on top of that it is hard to get approved for rent at non-subsidized housing buildings. So when YWCA took over the property of a failed condo development, it was to create a dent in these concerning statistics. After many years of construction the building now stands ready to be used, and happy residents and their children are now populating the beautiful units and common areas of the Elm Centre! The YWCA Toronto’s Elm Centre is one of Canada’s largest and most innovative green housing projects.  Being built to a LEED Silver standard, the Centre will incorporate geo-thermal in-slab radiant heating and cooling and will be one of the largest residential applications of geothermal technology in North America. The system works by taking advantage of the Earth’s abundant, free, clean, thermal energy to heat and cool the residential buildings. This system is three to five times more efficient than conventional systems.  It will also provide long-term savings in energy costs. It will also be building in green spaces including five green roofs, two rooftop gardens and an outdoor play area for children. Each apartment will contain EnergyStar-rated appliances. The buildings will be outfitted with a tri-sorter waste system; residents will be able to dispose of their garbage, recyclables and organics using one single chute from their own floor.

PDA will, in collaboration with the students of Sheridan College furniture program, be creating furniture for the Winona House common room. We held an introductory meeting and a design Charette with the residents of Winona House (The part of Elm Centre that is for families of Aboriginal ancestry). The students of Sheridan, their instructors Connie Chrisholm and Peter Fleming and PDA asked the Winona residents what they thought the common room needed, and what they, as clients, would like to see made by the students.

Then we came back with models that were built and developed by the students, asking for feedback. This was an inspiring evening of designing, considering, dining and deciding! We were so very pleased with the number of people showing up to both the events and the level of engagement in what we were trying to do, and we can’t wait to bring in the furniture at the beginning of April!