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Location: Guelph Date of Completion: c.1835
Date of Rehabilitation/New Buildings: 2018, ongoing
Architect of Rehabilitation: SRM Architects Inc. (heritage building reuse), Kirkor Architect + Planners
Nominated by: Mike Schreiner, MPP (Guelph)
Located in one of the most significant historic sites in the city of Guelph, the Metalworks is an ambitious redevelopment project that seeks to redefine the future of this formerly industrial site while preserving and honouring its past.
Revitalizing Our Heritage
Located on the east bank of the Speed River, the eight-acre site of the Metalworks is closely linked to the early history of Guelph, having once been home to the city’s first large-scale industrial development.
Built in 1830, just three years after the town’s foundation, the Canada Company Mill was a wooden structure, containing four run of stone: one for oatmeal, one for country flour and two for merchant flour. The mill was sold in 1832 to William Allan, who replaced the original structure with a five-storey stone building. The mill thrived over several decades and, at its height, spanned both sides of the river housing not only the mill, but also a distillery, a cooper, a blacksmith, a metalworking shop and a planing and woodworking mill. While the mill closed in 1883 after a devastating fire, the site would continue its industrial life for another 127 years, housing serval large manufacturers. Each new occupant would leave its mark on the site, modifying, demolishing and adding to the structures that preceded them. The last industrial owner of the site, appliance company W.C. Wood, closed its doors in 2009, bringing to an end a long chapter in the site’s history.
These well-used buildings—accumulated over almost 200 years of industrial history—would become the catalysts for the area’s revitalization. After sitting vacant for several years, they were purchased in 2016 as part of an ambitious redevelopment project. In 2018, following extensive renovation, restoration and rehabilitation of the existing buildings—including extensive work to preserve historical elements and a contemporary addition meant to contrast with the heritage structures—manufacturing came back to life on the site, this time as a distillery, bar and restaurant: a fitting tribute to the site’s original use 100 years ago.
More Than a Building
While the revitalization of former industrial buildings might have been the starting point of the project, the Metalworks extends far beyond these structures and includes what has been touted as the largest residential development ever proposed in downtown Guelph.
Broken into five distinct phases, the project aims to create more than 600 new residential units in downtown Guelph, housed in five contemporary mid-rise towers. Unabashedly modern, the towers seek to contrast the heritage elements of the site creating a dialogue between old and new. Their location makes them particularly suited to a more sustainable urban lifestyle—encouraging walking and cycling due to its proximity to the city’s core and many amenities.
In addition to the residential towers, the site’s redevelopment comprises 2.5 acres of open green spaces, including several courtyards and a meandering river walk, reclaiming the river’s edge as public space for all to enjoy. At-grade retail is also planned for the area, transforming this former industrial site into a truly mixed-use community.
This post forms part of our World Architecture Day Queen’s Park Picks 2019 series in which we asked Ontario’s Members of Provincial Parliament to nominate a prominent building, past or present, in their riding for a chance to learn more about it. Check out the rest of the series to learn more about great buildings across the province!