Pan American Games Athlete's Village & Cooper Koo Family Cherry St YMCA
City of Toronto, Ontario
Client : Infrastructure Ontario / YMCA of GTA
Area : 83,000 sf
Program : Aquatic Centre (4-Lane 25m Lap Pool, Fitness Pool with Movable Floor, Changerooms), Gymnasium, Fitness Centre, Indoor Track, Multi-Purpose Community Rooms, Child Care Centre, Administrative and Support Spaces, Outdoor Program (Plaza), George Brown College (Student Residences Retail)
Associated Architects : architectsAlliance / KPMB Architects / Daoust Lestage
Located in Toronto’s West Don Lands precinct, which is part of the City’s blank-slate plan to transform remediated industrial land into a mixed-use community, the Cooper Koo Family Cherry Street YMCA was designed to meet a double timeframe. At opening, the building served as a crucial hub of the Athletes’ Village at the PanAm/Parapan Games; after the Games, the Village was converted into a sustainable mixed-use neighbourhood with private, social and student housing, commercial buildings, and schools.
As a part of this brand-new community, the YMCA embodies the principles of health and wellness that are a key component of the neighbourhood’s identity. With that in mind, the building design considers its crucial ongoing role in local development, with a human-scaled, pedestrian-friendly presence and other user-centric civic gestures. Its western elevation joins its neighbours to the south—a pair of heritage red-brick structures that frame Front Street—in serving as a gateway from downtown into the West Don Lands and the Corktown Commons beyond. To the north and east, the YMCA is buttressed by towers; given these constraints, the building footprint is a simple two-storey square that reaches to the edge of its site in order to maximize interior space.
The brief called for LEED Gold certification, which was achieved by integrating an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable approach into the design from the outset, from its interior architecture to the overall plan of the Village. The resulting emphasis on urban context—copious walkways and public spaces, including bike parking and links to nearby attractions—is a key contributor, as are the accessible green roof, reduced water requirements, and a 40 percent reduction in energy consumption.
The 83,000-square-foot program includes a double gym and running track, fitness centre, aquatics centre, youth lounge and child care, multi-use rooms, boardrooms and support spaces, as well as a playground, green roof, and terrace. Inside and out, the design prioritizes openness and inclusivity. The primary street-facing façade features towering second-storey windows that are screened with transparent louvers and dramatically framed by a cherry-red box, while the south-facing second-floor gymnasium overlooks Front Street through full-height windows. The ground floor is fully glazed on its west and south elevations, opening it visually to passersby.
Having successfully met its goal of providing PanAm/Parapan athletes with a unique experience, the YMCA continues to contribute to one of the city’s newest walkable, sustainable mixed-use neighbourhoods, serving over 1,000 visitors per day.