Cabbagetown co-op roof goes green

By Eleanor McDonald –

Residents of the 8-storey Hugh Garner Co-op building, joined by Architect Monica Kuhn and Alex Waugh, and the chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation local Grant Review Team, marked a milestone Sept. 21 with the completion of Phase 1 of Canada’s largest residential green roof, and the beginning of its second phase.

Located at 550 Ontario Street in Toronto’s Cabbagetown neigbourhood, the 300 residents of the Co-op are creating a new urban oasis in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Monica Kuhn, the architect leading the planning and design process, hopes the Hugh Garner Co-op green roof will inspire developers, Co-op members, and downtown apartment residents in general to consider creating their own green spaces.

“This is a wonderful example of a community working together to improve their neighbourhood,” says Kuhn.

Hugh Garner Co-op had a conventional roof garden for 25 years. Anticipating Toronto City Council’s Green Roof Strategy by three years, Co-op members voted to build a complete green roof, and an appointed Green Committee started off by receiving an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of $100,000 in March 2004 to help realize co-op members’ dreams of green.

“The Hugh Garner Co-op is a testament to the strength that can be found in community,” says Smitherman. “It is the hard work and long hours of Hugh Garner Co-op’s own ‘grassroots’ – its many volunteers – that have made this green roof project a model for Toronto, the rest of Ontario and Canada.”

“We wanted to create a relaxing and diverse green space where residents and members of our community can have a quick escape from fast-paced city life,” says Eleanor McDonald, Co-Chair of the Co-op Green Committee.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation grant was used to implement the latest green roof technology, and with additional donations from the community, the Co-op employed local ‘green’ suppliers and contractors to do the work. The Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, receives $100 million annually from Ontario’s charity casino initiative.

The green roof, currently half-way toward completion, now has mechanical, electrical, special roofing membrane material and technology for preserving rain water. In addition, old cement paving blocks have been put back, original roof garden amenities restored, and four small green roof areas have been added.

Cabbagetown residents and community organizations such as Rose Avenue Daycare, Winchester Tenants Association and the Prospect Street Enrichment Group have supported the Hugh Garner green roof and everyone looks forward to enjoying the benefits: cleaner local air quality, learning about energy and resource efficiency, biodiversity and barrier-free gardening

“A lot of work still needs to be done,” says Kuhn. “This is Canada’s largest residential green roof, after all. We still need to implement all the plants and plant beds as well as barrier-free paths and seating areas.”

Residents are also initiating a number of fund-raising drives to pay for the project’s second phase.

“By working together, we are showing that large, residential green roofs are possible,” says McDonald.