In 2000 Soulpepper's Artistic Director Albert Schultz was approached by Paul Carder, then the Dean of Business and Creative Arts at George Brown College, with the suggestion that a partnership be struck between Soulpepper and the George Brown Theatre School to create a new performance/education facility.
In November of 2001, the Distillery Historic District Project was announced and the partnership of George Brown College (GBC) and Soulpepper immediately began negotiations with the Cityscape Development group to take possession of Tank Houses 9 and 10 creating what would become the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
The vision of this partnership was to create a performing arts, education and community outreach facility that would be home to Soulpepper Theatre Company with its three-tiered mandate of performance, artist training and youth outreach, George Brown Theatre School's celebrated three-year professional actor training program and Toronto's independent arts community. This facility, in which the performance and education of all performing disciplines would be undertaken, would be unique in the world.
In 2002, the architectural firm of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects was hired to design the centre with Thomas Payne as the principal architect. The design created four flexible, dedicated, indoor performance venues, four studios, two classrooms, a wardrobe production facility, a student lounge, artist garden, and administration offices for GBC and Soulpepper. At the centre of the building is a welcoming atrium which includes a café/bar and fireplace. The total cost of the facility was $14 million and GBC and Soulpepper Theatre Company equally shared the cost. The shared dream became a reality in 2003, when David Young through the Michael Young Family Foundation contributed a lead gift of $3 million to what is now known as the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. The facility officially opened to the public on January 15, 2006.
Since that time more than 250,000 people have attended performances at the Young Centre, which has received numerous architectural and design awards.
The Distillery District is a national Historic Site and represents the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America. Formerly known as The Gooderham and Worts Distillery, this facility has played an important role in the growth and wealth of both the city and nation.
The interesting history of the Distillery District begins in 1831 when James Worts immigrated to Canada from England to establish a grist mill. A year later, his brother in law William Gooderham and family joined him. Gooderham invested in Wort's milling business and the partnership of Gooderham and Worts was born. By the 1850's the business was thriving and it's numerous facilities included flour mills, a wharf, the distillery, storehouses, an ice house, a cooper shop and a dairy. In 1859 the construction of the new Gooderham and Worts Distillery on Mill Street east of Parliament was heralded as the most important contribution to Toronto's manufacturing interests. In 1869, a huge fire destroyed the wooded interior of the main building but left the grey limestone exterior intact, costing the company $100,000. However, the setback did not hamper the distillery's financial growth. The Distillery continued to thrive until World War One and Canada's short lived prohibition era that brought production of alcohol beverages to a standstill. In order to support the war effort during World War One, the distillery converted its operations to manufacturing acetone. In 1923, Harry C. Hatch purchased the declining business. Three years later he purchased Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. and in 1927, the companies merged under the parent company of Hiram Walker - Gooderham & Worts Ltd. All efforts were focused on developing the successful Canadian Club brand.
In 1990, after 153 years of continuous production, the Gooderham & Worts Distillery - once the largest distillery in the British empire - ceased operations. During the 1990s, The Distillery became the number one film location in Canada, and the second largest film location outside of Hollywood.
In December 2001 Cityscape Holdings Inc. purchased The Distillery, later partnering with Dundee Realty Corporation. In May 2003, The Distillery Historic District was officially opened, thereby implementing an ambitious plan to create a pedestrian - only village entirely dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment.