St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing - 25 Leonard

Kensington Market, Toronto

A vacant medical arts building provided a rare opportunity to adaptively reuse as affordable housing, further intensified with prefabricated apartments on the roof, demonstrating an innovative solution to Toronto’s affordable housing shortage.


In Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood, we adaptively reused a medical arts building, retaining the existing entrances and corridors, and renovating the offices into 51 affordable one-bedroom apartments. We also discovered that the structure could accept two more floors of suites. As a result, we realized a second phase, adding two storeys comprised of 26 prefabricated single room occupancy (SRO) units and an outdoor amenity space onto the roof. 

To design livable 220-square-foot SROs, we analysed the designs of trailer and yacht interiors such as incorporating built-in furnishings. Appliances and fixtures are tucked into alcoves and corners rather than being in separate rooms. 

The prefabricated units sped up the construction schedule and reduced inconvenience to the existing residents and neighbours. Since this kind of construction was very new, the units were lifted and placed into position by a crew of millwrights and bridge-builders, and installation was completed within six days.

The apartments are accessed from covered exterior walkways, allowing for excellent natural light and cross-ventilation into each unit and all are connected to a communal rooftop courtyard which offers spectacular vistas.

Scarcity of land for residential development in the downtown core has become a defining challenge for urban metropolises. Adaptive reuse of redundant commercial space and rooftop intensification offer sustainable and imaginative housing solutions within walkable neighbourhoods.

This project allowed for the delivery of high-quality living space with minimal cost through innovative “first principles” design, and careful implementation of technical and design efficiencies. The design and construction process integrated space-efficient prefabrication technologies learned from allied industries (trailer manufacturing, etc). The effective pursuit of commendable outcomes to this housing project was also enhanced with the inclusion of sustainable design features such as green roof installations. The jury found the project demonstrated significant ingenuity being effectively utilized in the service of important social needs.

Canadian Architect


Toronto Urban Design Award
Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Award of Excellence in the Innovation in Architecture – Science Category


Canadian Architect – (May 2007) Leonard Avenue Modular Housing