Tough times make historic new project a welcome relief

    Note to Assignment Editors, Producers and Journalists this information is
    not to be published until after 12am on January 21st, 2009

    TORONTO, Jan. 20 /CNW/ - The time for investment in Canada's social
future has never been better. On Wednesday January 21, at 80 Woodlawn Ave.
East at 10 a.m., YWCA Toronto will unveil plans for a major new $80 million
affordable and supportive housing development called the YWCA Elm Centre. The
complex will take up a city block in downtown Toronto and feature 300
permanent affordable apartments for women and their families.
    In support of the project, the YWCA has received a record breaking $5
million gift from the estates of the late Ken Thomson and the late Audrey
Campbell in memory of their sister Irma Brydson, who predeceased them. "This
gift, which is believed to be the largest gift ever to a social service
organization in Canada's history, leads the way, both in terms of this
important resource in Toronto, and of investment in Canada's social
infrastructure", says YWCA Toronto CEO Heather McGregor.
    Especially pleased to be partnering with Wigwamen Incorporated and the
Jean Tweed Centre, YWCA's ambitious new development will provide permanent
homes for women and their families and ensure that, once housed, women have
the staff support to turn their lives around.
    In response to a public call for proposals in 2006, YWCA Toronto and its
partners were selected by the City of Toronto to develop the city block
bordered by Edward, Elm, Chestnut, and Elizabeth Streets. The complex will
consist of three buildings and will provide 150 affordable apartments for
single women and women-led families, 100 apartments for women living with
mental health issues, and 50 apartments for people of Aboriginal ancestry,
including 10 designated for Aboriginal women fleeing violence. Fifteen percent
of all apartments will be designated for women over 50 years old.
    The main 17 story tower on Elm Street will be named Irma Brydson Place in
recognition of the 5 million dollar gift in her memory. Irma Brydson was born
in Toronto, a stone's throw from what will become the YWCA Elm Centre. The
middle child in a close and loving family, Irma was a strong and vivacious
woman who had deep compassion for those less fortunate. A young teen during
the Depression, Irma witnessed her mother feeding the hungry and unemployed
who came to their door. This example greatly influenced Irma's life.
    "Everyone benefits when our most vulnerable citizens have a safe and
stable place to live. Philanthropy has an important role in addressing the
root causes of poverty and homelessness and needs to be a top priority,
especially in tough economic times," said Sherry Brydson, the daughter of Irma
Brydson. Sherry has been involved in the business community of Elm Street
since 1979, when she acquired 18 Elm Street, YWCA's original headquarters, and
turned it into the Elmwood Spa. "My mother would be proud that her brother and
sister chose to preserve her memory by helping others in such a positive and
meaningful way, and we are thrilled to cement the bond with the YWCA even
further with this donation."
    The YWCA Elm Centre is set to become a hub in the downtown core, also
featuring several public venues including: a 200 seat auditorium, meeting
rooms, a reception hall, a women's Resource Centre, retail space, and a
restaurant. YWCA Toronto's administrative headquarters will relocate to the
YWCA Elm Centre, which will also become the new home of YWCA Canada.
    The YWCA has also incorporated many "green" features in the complex.
Being built to LEED Silver standards, the YWCA Elm Centre will incorporate
geo-thermal, radiant in-slab heating and cooling, five green roofs, a rooftop
garden, EnergyStar-rated appliances throughout, as well as a tri-sorter
garbage disposal system for the tenants. Hilditch Architect and
regionalArchitects have teamed up for the project and Bondfield Construction
has been selected as the General Contractor. Construction will begin in
February 2009 with completion expected by early 2011.

    Since 1873, YWCA Toronto has offered women supportive, affordable well
maintained housing. Currently the largest association by, for, and about women
and girls in the city, YWCA Toronto provides a range of housing options for
women and their families - from emergency shelter and transitional housing to
permanent apartments. In 2007, 1,331 individuals (women and their families)
called the YWCA home. Photos and video will be available at
on January 21, 2009

For further information:

For further information: Photos and interviews will be available at the
press conference. Raine Liliefeldt, Communications Manager, w) (416) 961-8101
ext.326, or c) (416) 660-9483,

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