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Pan Am Community Image looking west. Athletes' Village during the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games.

The site of the former Lever Brothers soap factory near the Don River is set to be redeveloped into an office and industrial district after First Gulf Corp. bought the 28.5 acre property from Unilever.

The first step in the multiphase plan is to convert the old factory into an office building and refurbish a nearby warehouse, said First Gulf chief executive officer David Gerofsky. Subsequent phases will see new buildings and roads laid out on the land, which sits along Lakeshore Boulevard East, with a mix of office space and street-front retail. The entire project could take five or 10 years to complete.

"Over time, we're really looking to reconnect that site to the rest of the city and open it up," Mr. Gerofsky said.

The district is meant to complement the West Don Lands, a primarily residential area being built across the river under the auspices of Waterfront Toronto in time for the Pan-Am Games in 2015. In a statement, the tripartite government agency gave its blessing to First Gulf's plans.

"It is a company that responds to the design, sustainability and community building objectives that Waterfront Toronto is implementing across the waterfront," CEO John Campbell said. "We are pleased to see the momentum with which private development is contributing to the revitalization of our waterfront."

First Gulf recently did a similar project on a smaller scale at the Toronto Sun building on King Street East. The developer added office space as well as retail on the ground floor, attracting banks, a liquor store and a coffee shop.

The Lever Brothers factory was set up in 1892. The company became Unilever after a merger and later sold the facilities to New Jersey-based Korex. Following a bitter strike and bankruptcy proceedings, Unilever bought the building back.