Historic Toronto Carpet Factory Gets Hip New Look
York Heritage Properties' Bob Eisenberg helped turn historic Toronto Carpet Factory into a fine brick and beam office complex. But, when Hullmark Developments suggested the old gem's brand could use a refresh, he didn't disagree.
Bob, right, with Hullmark president Jeff Hull, whose firm bought a 50% stake in the 320k SF Carpet Factory, which York Heritage will continue to manage. Jeff and his team have worked with Bob and his partner, Michael Cruickshank, on a rebrand of the Liberty Village complex, which includes a new logo that aids with wayfinding (seen above, it’s a minimalist representation of TCF's eight buildings, which occupy an entire block, “so you have a visual of where you are at any point in time,” says Bob). The rebrand, by Bruce Mau Design, also involves navigational signage and a new website.
“All of it's been brought up to the 21st Century, to reflect a more youthful demographic, of which Jeff is a part, and Michael and I are not,” Bob quips, noting TCF, with exposed brick and beam, high ceilings and operable windows, had been “courted” by other would-be suitors. But when Jeff, whose company developed critically acclaimed 60 Atlantic (below), inquired if York would consider selling a 50% stake, he didn’t have to ask twice, says Bob. “We recognized right away they were of a very similar culture to ours.”
While the complex has been ahead of the curve—it was among the first offices to have fibre-optic cable throughout, for example—Bob says Hullmark gently pointed out that “it sure didn’t look it.” (Not that this has impacted leasing, Jeff stresses. “There’s zero vacancy.”) But the new signage will help visitors better understand where they’re going, while also telling the historical property's back story. “We weren’t doing a particularly good job of that,” says Bob.
Both Bob and Jeff's firms have new projects planned for Liberty Village that are informed by lessons learned from their respective adaptive reuse adventures. Hullmark’s 60 Atlantic acquisition included a 20k SF parking lot where they'll be building 80 Atlantic, the city’s first new heavy timber structure in generations. “Call it brick and beam 2.0,” says Jeff, noting it'll take all the things people love about old buildings (connection to natural materials, high ceilings, light) and combine them with modern mechanical systems, column spacing and amenities. “And we’re looking for other sites for this building typology.”
York Heritage has JV'd with Adgar Investments & Development on the acquisition of a large swath along Liberty Village’s southern perimeter, from Hanna Avenue to Dufferin Street, a stretch they’ve unofficially dubbed Battlefield Path. There’s potential for a 2M SF mixed-use micro-community with campus-style office space. Bob says the vision is for mid-rise buildings with large floor plates—a mix of old and new, including a retrofitted Canada Bread building at 2 Fraser, and a redeveloped 2 Atlantic (above)—all surrounding courtyards. The place will “stress walkability, and you’ll always feel related to the street.”