Transformation: The Story of Creating EBW
Location, Location, Location
“Everything that Evergreen had done for the last 20 years was moving toward this moment. And this magic building was right there waiting for them.”
— David Young, Philanthropist
In 2002, Evergreen seeded what we thought was an interesting idea: launch a native plant nursery that would provide youth with employment and skills-development opportunities, propagate native plants that would support the delivery of our mission and generate a financial return that would support our charitable mandate. It was to be a “triple-bottom-line” enterprise that would provide environmental, social and economic returns.
Great idea, we thought. But where would we do it? David Stonehouse, then an Evergreen project manager, suggested off-hand that we consider a derelict industrial property nestled in the heart of Toronto’s Don Valley—an abandoned brick factory called the Don Valley Brick Works. At the time, David was new to our staff, but had spent the previous decade leading the Task Force to Bring Back the Don, a citizen-government coalition focused on restoring Toronto’s Lower Don River watershed, which had suffered from over 200 years of industrialization and neglect. David was familiar with efforts among government agencies and citizen groups to restore the site as part of watershed-wide regeneration efforts.
With that, a great idea found a great location. We felt unstoppable, excited by the tremendous potential. Evergreen Brick Works is as much a reflection of Evergreen’s mission as a reflection of the site itself. The match was synergistic. The Brick Works is a magical place, steeped in history and ecology, located a stone’s throw from downtown Toronto and adjacent to Canada’s most populous, and economically and culturally diverse neighbourhoods. We felt we could greatly expand the reach of our mission by providing a large-scale venue that would connect local communities with nature.
“There’s no way I could have been able to attract the investment that I did into our social enterprise with a crappy building in a crappy location.”
— Tonya Surman, Executive Director, Centre for Social Innovation
“We opened the Green Barn in a mixed-income neighbourhood where we could start to engage the middle and upper class and get them involved in the good food revolution... I think that the Green Barn was an extraordinarily important piece in ‘building out’ our story.”
— Nick Saul, Executive Director, The Stop Community Food Centre