Toronto-based design firm BDP Quadrangle has fulfilled a long-held dream of the late Sonja Bata of Bata Shoes fame with the transformation of the decommissioned Bata Shoe Factory in Batawa. Designed in collaboration with Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, the adaptive reuse project aims to reinvent the former factory town of Batawa — located 175 kilometers east of Toronto on the Trent River — into a new model of sustainable development. The former factory now houses 47 rental residential units of varying sizes along with a variety of commercial and community spaces. 

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The Bata Shoe Factory was built in the early 20th century when the Bata family immigrated from Czechoslovakia to Canada in 1939, bringing along their shoe empire and 120 workers to establish the company town of Batawa. Although the modernist-style factory had been decommissioned in 2000 and sold to a plastics factory, Sonja Bata repurchased the 1,500-acre site in 2008 as part of an ambitious masterplan to transform Batawa into a model of sustainable development. 

Related: 100-year-old Buda Mill & Grain Co. has new life as a community gathering spot

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large staircase in an industrial building

The converted Bata Shoe Factory, completed in 2019 after Bata’s death, is the first phase of her vision. The manufacturing facility now houses 47 rental residential units with 12-foot-high ceilings stacked above commercial amenities including a children’s daycare with an outdoor playground, an exhibition and community space, multipurpose rooms, educational incubators and a retail store and café on the ground floor. The building is topped with an accessible rooftop terrace.

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bright white apartment with light wood cabinetry in the kitchen

The architects reduced the project’s environmental footprint by preserving the original concrete structure to achieve savings of close to 80% of the original building’s embodied carbon. Geothermal energy powers all of the HVAC systems. Passive solar principles informed the placement of building openings. To soften the industrial feel of the building, the architects added wood cladding on the soffits and balcony walls. The Bata Shoe Factory building is also equipped with high-speed fiber internet service and is located in a walkable, bike-friendly area.

+ BDP Quadrangle

Photography by Scott Norsworthy via BDP Quadrangle

glass wall near large patio