401 Richmond is a historic warehouse in downtown Toronto and home to over 140 cultural producers and microenterprises. Originally site of the Macdonald Manufacturing Company, the first and finest lithographers on tinware in Canada, the building was constructed in five stages from 1899 through 1923.
Aware of the need for affordable workspace in the city’s downtown core, the Zeidler Family who purchased the property in 1994, took an aged building with 40% occupancy, and rather than tarting it up or tearing it down, transformed it into a fully-leased thriving cultural and commercial centre within 18 months. Today the building has an eclectic tenant base that reflects the variety of artistic practices and entrepreneurial endeavours taking place in Toronto's cultural centre. Browsing through the Tenant Directory will give you a pretty good idea of the kinds of things that take place under this roof every day. 401 Richmond is home to 12 art galleries and artist-run centres, fashion designers, film makers, jewelers, architects, animators, healers, communications specialists, graphic artists, milliners, charitable organizations and even a Spanish dance school.
Much of what goes on at 401 Richmond reflects the ideas of renowned urban visionary the late Jane Jacobs. In her book, Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs says: “Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings; new ideas must use old buildings.” Jacobs also speaks of the need for diversity within a community and at 401 Richmond the vibrant mix of tenants has come to know each other and collaborate on projects. The synergy of tenants and practices supports and fosters both business and creativity. Physical and ideological infrastructures have been put in place: a newsletter, café/gathering place, an arts-enriched early learning centre, community courtyard, and roof garden. All these enhance the commercial, cultural and community activities within these four walls.
The municipal government calls 401 Richmond one of Toronto’s key arts centres, and visitors from cities afar have come to the building to learn how to blend business with the arts to establish a viable urban neighbourhood within a single community. 401 Richmond is recipient of a 1999 Award of Merit from Toronto Heritage for outstanding adaptive re-use of a historic building and received Heritage Designation in April of 2007.